Two students in the Detroit school district have tested positive for COVID-19, after the district began testing all in-person summer school students as part of a federal court order.
A total of 274 students have been tested so far. Parents had to provide consent for their children to get tested. About 650 students were attending summer school in person, and there is no summer school Friday.
Testing will continue Friday and throughout the weekend, said Chrystal Wilson, spokeswoman for the district. She said students must be tested before they can return to school Monday.
According to a statement from the city’s health department, parents of the students who tested positive and those who were in close contact with the students have been notified and instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days to be monitored for virus symptoms. The statement doesn’t say where the students were taking classes.
The students who tested positive will continue summer learning online.
The health department has also begun contact tracing, and the district is working to clean and disinfect the school and school buses, per the safety protocols outlined in the district’s reopening plan.
Other students will be allowed to return to the school building on Monday, July 27. The health department has also agreed to test all school staff.
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered all students be tested for COVID-19, as part of a lawsuit filed by the activist group By Any Means Necessary.
“We are committed to transparency and upholding the guidelines outlined by health authorities and the Center for Disease and Prevention. We will continue to work closely with the Detroit Health Department as we complete summer school and prepare to reopen in the fall. Our priority is to meet the needs of our families as we navigate this pandemic,” said district Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in a statement.
“Infection rates are low, which is consistent with rates across the City,” said Denise Fair, the city health department’s chief public health officer. “This is what I would have expected. We are not seeing clusters and at this point, this does not suggest school spread. We will continue to partner with Detroit Public Schools Community District to ensure the health and safety of students.”
In partnership with the city’s health department, the Detroit district began testing students beginning Wednesday. There are 23 school buildings holding face-to-face summer classes, which began July 13.
The results come as part of a growing debate over the reopening of schools in the fall. In Detroit, health and safety concerns associated with COVID-19 have divided the school community. The district is preparing for in-person learning in the fall, as well as virtual options for families who don’t feel it’s safe enough to return to the classroom.
Ben Royal, a district teacher and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the positive results prove that in-person summer school needs to stop.
“That speaks to the importance of testing and the absurdity of not requiring it in the first place before students came into the buildings,” he said. “With what we know now, all school buildings need to be closed. These will not be the only two students who test positive.”
The Detroit case is an outlier, according to Travis Pillow, the editorial director of Center on Reinventing Public Education. The organization is actively tracking safety protocols within school district reopening plans across the U.S.
“We haven’t seen anything quite like Detroit, where people are forcing testing by legal action,” he said.