COVID vaccine mandate issued for Detroit public schools staff

DPSCD staff must get vaccinated by Feb. 18; students likely face mandate soon

Pharmacist Kenni Clark prepares a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at City of Lawrence's "The Center," which serves seniors, families and the community, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Lawrence, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Charles Krupa, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – Staff members at Detroit public schools will soon be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 if they have not already, officials announced Friday.

According to Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, all school staff are required to be vaccinated for COVID by Feb. 18, 2022. The district had not previously issued a vaccine mandate.

A student COVID vaccine mandate is “likely by the first day of school next year,” Vitti said. No additional details have been provided about that yet.

The news comes as the district cancels classes for three days next week in an effort to configure an education plan as the region, and state, grapples with a significant spike in COVID-19 cases. The city of Detroit alone is reportedly experiencing an infection rate of 36%.

Between Jan. 3 and Jan 5, DPSCD staff members will reportedly be tested for COVID at no cost to give the district an idea of how likely and safe it would be to welcome students back for in-person learning. The district will then use the staff infection rate to determine how to proceed for the remainder of the week and in the weeks to come, officials said.

According to Vitti, the district cannot immediately shift to online classes next week due to the “need to test employees,” and because not all students have access to the learning platforms at home.

“DPSCD has been a leader in promoting and protecting in-person learning. We know this is the best way for our students to learn and maximize their education. However, we have also been a leader in using science and data to make hard decisions during this pandemic,” Vitti said in a statement Friday. “Due to the Omicron variant and low vaccination rates, the city is facing an all-time high infection rate of 36%. Infection rates are also high statewide and at the county level. If schools open as planned on Monday, it is inevitable that we will face a high number of positive cases that will lead to high rates of quarantining and staff shortages, which will disrupt school operations.”

Students are also being encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 at one of the district’s no cost testing sites during this time.

Vitti says all DPSCD students will be required to get tested regularly for COVID-19, or they will instead be required to attend the school’s virtual academy, effective Jan. 31, 2022. Officials say 65% of students are already getting tested for the virus weekly.

Michigan health officials on Wednesday reported the highest-ever single-day COVID case counts since the onset of the pandemic. A number of Michigan colleges have decided to begin the upcoming winter semester online amid the COVID surge.

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About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.