It’s back-to-school for students at the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), and the district is committed to providing safe learning options and environments for students, teachers and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Detroit families were facing many challenges and uncertainties this summer, DPSCD was at work developing a reopening plan for students and their families to return to school. Following the State of Michigan’s Return to Learn Plan as well as getting guidance from educational groups such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), along with input from public health experts, DPSCD has created a reopening plan that is both realistic and flexible in its offerings.
The district has taken all of its families’ learning needs into account in its plan, according to Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent, Detroit Public Schools Community District.
“We are committed to meeting our families and students where they are this school year with extensive safety protocols, smaller class sizes, enhanced online learning and technology for all students,” says Vitti. “We are saving a seat for you when school starts on Sept. 8.”
DPSCD realizes that the situation will continue to evolve and is meeting the needs of families with a reopening plan.
Here is what families need to know about reopening and some key resources for the start of this school year.
Families have options
DPSCD will offer both online and face-to-face options for all students, and families are selecting the option that best meets their needs. DPSCD is also offering a learning center option for select schools. This option provides online learning in a school-based setting. It enables working parents to do their jobs while also knowing that their children are getting a quality public education while respecting the decision of DPSCD teachers who prefer to work remotely at this time.
Using a robust online learning platform and applications, students who select the online option will receive daily live instruction with certified teachers and classmates. They will be supported by their physical school, receive planners and workbooks, and access the Homework Hotline. Students who are learning online can even participate in online extracurricular clubs and activities.
Through a partnership initiative called Connected Futures, students who were enrolled in February 2020 have received or will receive internet-enabled devices and six months of wireless access. This will enable 51,000 students to connect with the internet to participate in learning this fall and address the digital divide for students who do not currently have these resources. Students who are not eligible for the Connected Futures program can receive a device on loan from DPSCD.
Students who select to learn in a face-to-face environment will learn alongside no more than 20 fellow students per classroom. Core subjects of math, English language arts, and science will be the focus of students’ days, but they will also continue to have access to select electives of art, PE, recess and music.
Safety measures are in place
The foundational playbook for face-to-face learning will include an emphasis on safety measures in every school building. Auditoriums and gyms will be used to better allow for social distancing, and in-person classrooms will have 20 or fewer students. Students and staff will learn healthy hygiene practices including washing hands for 20 seconds with hand soap, using the hand sanitizing station, social distancing and reporting when they feel ill.
Masks will be required and reusable masks will be provided to students and staff and additional personal protective equipment will be available, like KN95 masks for nurses and face shields for teachers. While using school transportation and in common school areas, like hallways and cafeterias, all students from preschool through grade 12 will wear masks. DPSCD suggests that parents practice proper mask-wearing techniques and share with their children how these measures are in place out of care and not fear.
Before students and staff return this fall, all buildings have been cleaned and disinfected. This level of sanitization will continue for classrooms and other shared spaces throughout the school year. Daily cleanings will be tracked and posted to logs to ensure that high-touch surfaces are properly disinfected with frequency and assurance.
Just as importantly, schools will follow a process for building entry that includes symptom and temperature checks for students and staff which aligns with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
Communication is a top priority
DPSCD has engaged more than 25,000 students, families, teachers and community members by staging upwards of 20 online town hall meetings as well as having district ambassadors conduct a variety of meet and greets on the return to school. In addition, the district’s plan is flexible and adaptive to anticipated changes in the status of COVID-19 cases locally.
The District will communicate proactively about confirmed cases once information is verified with public health officials. Also, before students can return to their classrooms, buildings and offices will be thoroughly disinfected. To avoid disruption in their learning, students will pivot to online instruction until they can return to their classrooms if they are directed to remain home.
In the case of widespread required school closures by state order, DPSCD is prepared to transition fully to online learning, and students who attend face-to-face learning will become familiar with online learning platforms to ease transitions to online learning that may become necessary.