New concerns emerge as Detroit schools begin in-person instruction amid pandemic

Detroit schools enforce COVID protocols as students return to classroom

Schools resume in-person learning as COVID cases continue rising
Schools resume in-person learning as COVID cases continue rising

DETROIT – COVID-19 is just one of the challenges facing Michigan school districts this fall.

Tuesday marked the last wave of schools returning to the classroom. Among them about 50,000 students in the Detroit Public School Community District.

There were precious moments happening in front of Priest Elementary-Middle School on Detroit’s west side Tuesday morning.

Related: Detroit schools enforce COVID protocols as students return to the classroom

There is a lot of concern among parents who are releasing their treasures into the care of the Detroit Public Schools Community District especially for those first time students. Due to COVID protocols they have had to leave their children at the door. For Eric and Rose with 9 children the return of school brings excitement and real fear.

“This virus, they say the little ones are catching it more than the adults. I am worried about my little ones more than the elders because the elders already got their vaccination,” said concerned parent Eric Hall.

And that’s a common theme. Of course parents need to get back to work and their children need to get back into school, but the elephant in the room is the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to rage with a new variant in a city where barely a third of all eligible residents are even vaccinated.

The district says it now has 50,000 students enrolled and is at pre-COVID levels.

Read more: Detroit schools strengthen COVID protocols ahead of fall semester

That’s important when you consider the 70 percent chronic truancy rate in this district last year.

What has to happen now is these students must show up in person and if they do not the district will send representatives out into the community to look for the missing students.

Teachers are coming back with what their own union president calls the “richest contract” ever negotiated from this district. Some teachers getting as much as $18,000 in pay increases before hazard pay and potential bonuses.

“Teachers are excited. The staff is excited and we’re just so happy to see everyone,” said Justin Houser, Principal of Priest Elementary-Middle School.

And of course you can’t ignore what’s going on at Renaissance High School where there are at least 12 confirmed cases of COVID with an athletic team and dozens of quarantines before the first school bell even rang.

“Our sports teams are going to be more susceptible to positive cases and outbreaks ... and that is just a risk that our coaches, players and families are willing to take,” said Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of DPSCD.

Get Caught Up: A look at Michigan school mask mandates for 2021-22 academic year

Read more: Education headlines from across Michigan

Watch more: Many parents in DPSCD want in-person learning to work

Parents struggle to juggle work and children's school schedule amid pandemic
Parents struggle to juggle work and children's school schedule amid pandemic

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.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.