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Donations mean most Detroit district students can take their AP exams at home amid COVID-19 anxiety

Detroit school district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti during a May virtual school board meeting.
Screenshot taken by Eleanore Catolico/Chalkbeat

Far fewer students than anticipated will need to take AP exams in Detroit school district buildings, thanks to a partnership with a local church and the national organization that administers the exam.

Detroit district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the College Board will provide devices and internet access for AP students, while Triumph Church will provide additional Wi-Fi hotspots.

Providing some of the AP students with the necessary technology gives them the ability to complete their exams at home during the coronavirus pandemic, minimizing their potential exposure to the virus and complying with the stay-at-home order.

The district had planned to allow close to 100 AP students who lacked either a device or an at-home broadband connection to take exams across nine school buildings, starting this week. Some teachers union officials raised health and safety concerns.

“We should have few if any students that will have to come in buildings and take AP exams,” said district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

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Vitti said opening up some school buildings to allow AP students to take exams was “a last resort” to prevent students from “forfeit[ing] an opportunity to obtain college credit.”

District officials had said that enough school administrators had signed up to proctor the AP exams. Approximately 25 proctors were needed across nine school buildings.

Vitti said the College Board won’t be able to extend the 10-day testing period, which started May 11. If students perform well on an AP exam, they can earn college credit. Advanced placement courses, which include core subjects and languages, involve a more challenging curriculum than regular classes. Exam makeup dates are available in June.

Still, some teachers criticized the plan to open school buildings during public comment.

“It never should have even been suggested that it would be safe and acceptable for students to come to school. It takes less than a second for someone to be contaminated with this virus. So coming for a 45-minute test is not acceptable,” said teacher Nicole Conaway.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Detroit especially hard. As of Tuesday, Detroit reported 1,213 COVID-related deaths, the highest in Michigan.

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