Detroit public schools cancel classes Monday-Wednesday to configure COVID plan

DPSCD staff face new coronavirus vaccine mandate, students next


DETROIT – In-person and online classes have been canceled for Detroit public schools next week as the district conducts widespread COVID testing and works to establish a learning plan amid an ongoing virus surge.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) has canceled all classes on Monday, Jan. 3 through Wednesday, Jan. 5 in an effort to test all employees for COVID-19 before students return to school. The announcement comes as Detroit, along with the rest of the state of Michigan, sees a surge in virus cases, likely partly driven by the new omicron variant.

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. Officials say the city of Detroit currently has a COVID-19 infection rate of 36%.

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 DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai 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.

In addition to the class cancelation, Vitti announced Friday that all DPSCD staff members will be required to be vaccinated for COVID, effective Feb. 18, 2022. A student COVID vaccine mandate is “likely by the first day of school next year,” Vitti said.

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.

New: Michigan State University to begin winter 2022 semester virtually amid COVID surge

Related: Michigan will update COVID quarantine guidance to match CDC

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.