Protesters Block Detroit School Buses on First Day of In-person Summer Classes

July 13, 2020 Updated: July 13, 2020

The first day of in-person summer learning for Detroit’s public school students was disrupted as protesters attempted to prevent buses from leaving to pick up students who wish to return to their classroom after more than four months.

Nearly 100 protesters organized by By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) started to gather outside the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s garage site around 5 a.m., according to The Detroit News. Holding up signs expressing health concerns over the CCP virus pandemic, they formed a picket line to block the buses from leaving to take students to school. Some protesters also dug up plants and tree branches and used them to obstruct the driveway.

“There’s a reason they’re only opening these schools in Detroit and Detroit has had the worst of COVID-19,” BAMN organizer Kate Stenvig told The Detroit News. “We’re not going to allow our kids to be guinea pigs in this experiment.”

About 4,000 K-12 students are enrolled for Detroit’s summer program. Half of them signed up for in-person classes in school buildings, while the rest take classes online. Summer classes are scheduled for four hours on Monday through Thursday, and will end Aug. 6.

The demonstration ended at around 9 a.m., meaning that students who rely on bus transportation would likely miss their first day of classes, which had started by 8:30 a.m. Those who did make it to school would have to undergo a temperature check and symptom screening before they entered classroom wearing masks while maintaining physical distance. Each classroom’s capacity is limited to no more than 15 students.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closure of public schools in March when the pandemic struck Michigan. While some schools had the necessary technology and resources to help students shift to remote learning, others struggled to provide students with the devices and internet connection they needed to complete assignments from home.

In an interview with CNN last week, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said people in the school district are in “desperate need” to return to in-person learning.

“The online learning wasn’t ideal and our children have fallen farther behind,” Vitti said, emphasizing what a challenge it is for for working parents to support their children’s virtual learning at home.

“COVID is not going away,” Vitti wrote on Twitter. “Many of our children need face-to-face, direct engagement. We should not make that requirement for all children and families. Parents should be able to choose face-to-face or online.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has recorded more than 69,000 COVID-19 cases and 6,000 deaths since March. Although recent COVID-19 numbers in the state have been increasing, the fatality rate and infection rate are both falling.