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Detroit public schools roll out plan for fall; seek input

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti
Detroit Public Schools Community District

The Detroit Public Schools Community District wants feedback on its recently released draft plan to re-open schools.

The district has scheduled Zoom meetings this week to get input from students, parents, and the community, and it is seeking responses to an online survey.

The district is gearing up to start fall in-class instruction on September 8. 

Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said strict safety protocols are a key part of the plan.

"Our plan has to look different than other plans throughout Michigan, knowing that COVID had a disproportionate impact on our community," said Vitti.

The plan calls for mandatory testing of all staff within two weeks of reporting to work; daily temperature checks of all employees and all students; mandatory online training about safety precautions for students and staff before school starts in the fall; and a requirement for students and employees to wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible.

The district will provide basic masks for all students and staff. All visitors must wear a mask, and non-essential visitors or volunteers will be limited.

Under the plan, schedules will be staggered, students will eat in their classrooms, in-person classes will be limited to twenty students to allow social distancing, and high school students may have live, in-person instruction on alternating weeks.

The instructional school day may be limited to six hours, comparied to the usual seven to seven and a half hours. 

"Implementing the plan won't be easy," said Vitti. "But it's something we're going to have to do because it's what our children need. We know that a lot of our families are desperate for face-to-face instruction to continue. A lot of our parents have already returned to work or need to return to work."

Vitti said the district plans to expand online learning even as it re-opens its physical schools. He said that through the district's Connected Futures initiative, all of the district's approximately 50,000 students will have access to a laptop and to internet connectivity. 

He said the district may also offer an online-only educational option for those who do not want to return to in-class teaching. But he says that will require some adjustment to state policies. 

The plan also includes opportunites for virtual summer school, and some small groups will be able to attend in-person summer school.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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