Second largest school district in US issues vaccine mandate for students -- Will Detroit schools follow suit?

DPSCD to take ‘wait and see’ approach

Conversations about vaccines, masks and other protocols will likely be a main focus during the entire 2021-22 school year.

DETROIT – A lot of time, money and effort has been put into making Detroit Public Schools Community District schools as safe as possible for students.

After an outbreak at Renaissance High School, the reality of how well these measures will work were brought to light.

Read: Detroit teachers raise concerns after COVID outbreak in football team

After the second largest school district in the country mandated vaccines for students 12 and up, the conversations have begun in Michigan’s largest school district.

“There has been conversations about children who are able to get a vaccine, it being mandated for folks so we have thought about it,” said Detroit Federation of Teachers president Terrence Martin. “Obviously, we know making sure that mitigation strategies are in place, we know that helps to control the spread. We know that vaccines work, you know that mask wearing works.”

Martin said conversations about vaccines, masks and other protocols will likely be a main focus during the entire 2021-22 school year.

Read: Tracking Michigan school districts, colleges requiring masks for 2021-2022 school year

“When you have that conversation, you really have to look at what the community has an appetite for and compare that with what’s in the best interest of all,” Martin said.

While the DPSCD said 70% of its staff is vaccination, it means nearly a third isn’t. Interest in a mandate from staff is tepid at best.

“I think it’s mixed. You know you look at our membership and we have about 75% of our folks who are vaccinated,” Martin said. “Now, 25% are not. But when you look at the city of Detroit, the numbers in the community, they’re very low -- less than 50%. So certainly that’s alarming.”

In a statement released Friday, DPSCD said the district, “has been a proven leader throughout this pandemic by being ahead of national, state, and local COVID school safety requirements from closing schools, masking, and now testing. As a district, we were compliant with President Biden’s vaccine or test request last spring by implementing weekly universal testing”

More: Here’s what the FDA is saying about COVID-19 vaccines for young children as of Sept. 10, 2021

A part of this too is a lot of mistrust and distrust in government and hospitals. The rate of fully-vaccinated Detroiters -- with delta on the rise -- is 36%. The Detroit Federation of Teachers said maybe schools -- which are the center of a lot of communities and are places people trust -- can also be places where we can push back against that hestitancy.

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About the Authors:

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.