Detroit Teachers Reach Reopening Agreement for In-Person Teaching

By The Center Square
The Center Square
The Center Square
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com
July 27, 2021 Updated: July 27, 2021

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) announced Monday it reached an in-person reopening agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT).

The agreement recognizes the need to return all DPSCD teachers and ancillary staff to the classroom for in-person learning while following updated COVID-19 safety standards. The deal will continue many protocols implemented last year when DPSCD effectively opened schools pre-vaccine with a minimum number of outbreaks.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, welcomed the deal.

“We are all excited to have our students back in schools and classrooms in the fall. As a district, I am proud that we did everything we could to meet the needs of our employees, students, and families during the most difficult times of the pandemic,” Vitti said in a statement.

“Everyone did their part to keep each other safe and supported. This agreement signals that we are all on the same page to restart our reform efforts that had great momentum before the pandemic. With a much-needed infusion of one-time Federal COVID Relief funding we will be able to effectively address absenteeism, learning loss, mental health, and many of our long-term facility needs.”

One key provision is the joint Labor-Management Committee on Schools Reopening, which will continue to meet weekly to review reopening issues driven by pandemic-related data.

The agreement also provides teachers and auxiliary staff hazard pay up to $2,000 and another $2,000 if teachers need to work with students in a blended learning environment (i.e., in-person learners coupled with online learners).

The District’s fall 21-22 reopening plan focuses on in-classroom teaching. However, there are provisions for a new and separately district-operated virtual school. The agreement provides additional support and sick leave for any DFT member who performs work in person and contracts COVID-19 or is asked to quarantine. Asymptomatic teachers asked to quarantine will continue remotely to ensure continuity of student learning.

The district will provide full personal protection equipment, including protective gowns, face masks, face shields, shoe covers, and gloves. Supplemental cleaning services, room fans, and air purifiers are available upon request.

Safety guidelines include:

  • COVID-19 student and employee training
  • Mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for non-vaccinated staff and daily symptom and temperature checks for students and staff
  • Deep cleaning of classrooms and buildings as well as administrative checks on cleaning results and regular review of procedures
  • Ample supplies of hand sanitizers
  • Contracted nurse on duty at each school
  • Deep cleaning, masks, and social distance seating on school buses
  • Access to the COVID-19 vaccine
    “As a board, we understand it is time to make the necessary provisions to ensure all students can return to their classrooms this fall,” DPSCD Board of Education President Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said in a statement. “We believe our protocols are proven to work and we applaud our students and teachers who have demonstrated we can effectively perform seemingly difficult tasks. We thank the DFT for their partnership and willingness to stand with us, students first.”

Before the school year, the Board and Vitti conducted nearly a dozen engagement sessions with more than 2,000 participants including employees, families, students, and community members. Those engagement sessions will continue as the 2021-2022 school year begins.

By Scott McClallen

The Center Square
The Center Square
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com