What safe in-person learning looks like in school districts across Metro Detroit

Districts in Michigan to decide on COVID precautions
Districts in Michigan to decide on COVID precautions

DETROIT – The vision of a safe in-person learning environment for schools in Michigan varies depending on the school district.

The CDC announced last week that it highly recommends teachers and students, even those who are fully vaccinated against COVID, continue to wear masks indoors at school.

Local 4′s Paula Tutman has been visiting and polling school districts across Metro Detroit to see how vastly different school systems regard what constitutes a safe learning environment. There is a degree of chaos in every district as it works to get students and teachers back into the classroom.

Read: Nearly half of Michigan now falls under revised CDC mask guideline range for COVID spread

Detroit Public Schools Community District likely has the most stringent safety protocols in place. Students, teachers and staffers must show documentation to prove their vaccination status in order to be inside without a mask.

All unvaccinated students and staffers will have to submit to weekly COVID testing and wear masks at all times to ender the buildings.

Depending on your school district you’ll find everything from strict mitigation to barely existent rules, and summer school gives a fairly accurate peek into how administrators view what constitutes safe protocols.

In the School District of the City of Pontiac, which teaches close to 5,000 students, you can’t get in the door without a temperature check and declaring your health status.

Before students enter classrooms they are reminded of the proper way to wear the masks and everyone is masked regardless of vaccination status. They’ve also added an air purifier to each classroom. In classes where student density cannot be minimized there are acrylic shields.

Read: Mask guidance divides parents heading into new school year

In Clintondale Community Schools there are fewer than 2,000 students. The district shared a list of COVID mitigation strategies and its superintendent said he’s worried about the pandemic.

The district only has five schools and appears to have a different take on COVID mitigation. One of the strategies is keeping students six feet apart. Desks are also spread out. While there were signs on the wall demanding everyone wear masks, Local 4 only saw a few students and staffers wearing masks.

The superintendent, Rodriguez Broadnax, said since wearing a mask is just recommended by the CDC they have relaxed their mask policy and students only have to wear them if they feel they need them. The water fountains are also fully operational.

The plexiglass at workstations were removed just two days prior to Local 4′s visit. Broadnax, who moved to Michigan from Mississippi, toured Local 4 around his elementary school.

He revealed he is not vaccinated and when Local 4 spoke with him he was on the fence about getting vaccinated. He later told Local 4 that he is going to be vaccinated.

Read: More education coverage

Broadnax sent the following letter to Local 4:


About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.