Detroit Federation of Teachers lists safety demands for return to school

Students want to ensure classrooms are safe

Local educators are demanding Detroit Public Schools ensure a safe return for students in the fall amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

DETROIT – The Detroit Federation of Teachers has a list of demands for the school district.

The bottom line is they want to make sure schools are 100 percent safe not only for the staff, but the students as well.

READ: More reports regarding the Return to School

“As you’ve seen over the past week and a half over two weeks, the cases have gone up. That tells us right now that there are some grave concerns,” said Detroit Federation of Teachers President, Terrence Martin.

Martin spoke about he potential hazards if class goes back into session with the more traditional approach along with a group of teachers, students and even parents.

“At this very moment, there are some people willing to risk the lives of teachers, students, and families,” said student Mohammad Muntakim

“I want my child back in the classroom, but only when it’s safe to do so,” said parent Arlyssa Heard

The federation is making a list of demands from the district in hopes of ensuring the safety of staff and students alike, including -- allowing all employees to opt into in-person work, develop and implement a reopening plan with unions and so much more.

“No employees should be forced to return to work for fear of being terminated because they have a feeling of apprehension because of their health,” said Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees President Stephanie Carreker.

Dr. Vitti Responded to the demands which included this statement:

“As you know, the school board has already approved the district’s reopening plan and we are three quarters into the implementation of that plan, which meets the governor’s Return to Learn Task Force requirements. We did engage all union leaders in the draft plan and held virtual meetings with teachers/school based staff, school based administration, district administration, parents, students, and a broader community meeting. With that said, we are more than willing to meet again to discuss how the reopening plan can be improved.”

Vitti also responded to every single demand in that same letter.

Develop and Implement a Reopening Plan with Unions.

Please see opening response above.

Allow for in-person instruction for some students, who have essential needs, only if Southeast Michigan is in Stage 5 of Michigan’s Safe Start Plan. Only consider in-person instruction as an option for all students if Southeast Michigan is in Safe Start Stage 6.

At this time, this is inconsistent with the guidelines set by Michigan’s Safe Start Phases, the Governor’s Return to Learn Task Force, or initial bills coming from the Legislature. Obviously, the district intends to follow federal and state law for reopening schools in the fall to prevent the loss of funding.

Rely on Public Health Officials to Review Reopening Plans and to Provide Ongoing Support.

The district’s reopening plan was reviewed by the local Health Department and was considered a solid plan that would be recommended to other districts. We are in constant communication with the local Health Department. In addition, our plan is consistent with CDC guidelines regarding a COVID safe environment. Our reopening plan will be adjusted and modified to remain consistent with CDC reopening school guidelines if guidelines change. If the city is interested in developing a city-wide health task force or committee for school reopening then we would be willing to participate. We are not aware of their interest to create such a task force or committee.

Mandatory Testing Procedures and Exposure Mitigation.

If the city or county is interested in developing a task force or committee to review city school safety reopening criteria then we will be willing to participate. We would be willing to discuss the pros and cons of a city-wide requirement for student testing but at this time significant obstacles would prevent this from happening, including: 1) state law does not require a student test and a parent could legally object to testing in order to access a public school 2) accessibility to tests for city students (DPSCD and charters) is unclear (cost and scale are the concerns) 3) Parents are expressing distrust about the testing process and will likely leave district or charter schools for surrounding school districts that do not require a test which will lead to decreases in enrollment and funding.

Protect Staff Health by Allowing All Employees to Opt into In-person Work.

The District is willing to consider non-F2F working options for high risk employees. However, the total number of non-F2F options will be determined on parent/student selection of F2F or online learning selection.

Reduce Potential Spread by Encouraging and Supporting Those Who May Have Experienced Exposure to Stay Home.

This has already been committed to. Once an employee reports to work, if they become COVID positive (infected at work or home) then the district will cover their personal/sick days.

DPSCD Should Provide Increased Compensation (Hazard Pay) for Employees Who Opt in to In-person Work and Are Considered Essential Workers.

We are willing to consider this through negotiations.

DPSCD Must Provide Physical Packets and Manipulatives for Parents/Families who want to Opt-Out of Online Learning but Keep Their Child(ren) Enrolled in DPSCD.

By providing students and parents with a F2F or online option we are providing students with resources (i.e. books, device, online access) to a full education. However, we are not funded to do both. The online option provides students with a device (access to curriculum, assignments). The online curriculum is the same curriculum that will be provided for F2F students. We printed packets in the spring because all students/parents did not have access to a device or internet access and our curriculum could not be easily accessed online. This will not be the case in the fall.

DPSCD Must Not Contract with Private Companies to Outsource School Services and/or Staff Jobs.

We have no plans to do this.

“If the union leadership doesn’t feel that it’s safe, we won’t show up,” Martin said.

About the Author:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.