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Detroit students can return to face-to-face instruction May 24

The Detroit school board voted Tuesday to lift its suspension on in-person instruction, with face-to-face classes resuming Monday. File photo from the first day of school.
Valaurian Waller/Bridge Detroit

The Detroit school board voted Tuesday night to resume face-to-face instruction in district schools on Monday.

The decision, which came on a unanimous vote, means students who want to learn in a physical classroom will be able to do so through the end of the school year in June.

The decision, for now, also brings to a close a debate in the Detroit Public Schools Community District over providing in-person learning options for parents who want it for their children. That debate, and concerns about what then was a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, led the board last month to suspend in-person instruction until its May school board meeting, with the only allowance being in cases where a teacher volunteers to teach in person with students who volunteer to come into a building.

Last month’s vote didn’t affect students who attend the district’s learning centers, where staff members supervise students learning online. But some parents of learning center students were concerned the board would eventually suspend that option as well.

The district has begun looking closely at a set of data, called a safety matrix, to determine whether it’s safe for in-person instruction to continue. Those data include vaccination rates in the region, safety compliance in district schools, local COVID-19 testing data from weekly saliva testing in DPSCD locations, and infection rates in the city and Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.

“As of mid-May, the data through the matrix indicates that face-to-face learning can resume effective May 24th with all the standard safety protocols in place such as mask wearing, social distancing, regular symptom checks, etc., as well as the district’s new weekly saliva testing program,” the district said in a report on its website.

The board heard from several frequent advocates of shutting down in-person learning during the meeting’s public comment period. One of them was Benjamin Royal, a district teacher, who said the only way to keep schools safe is to keep them closed.

But they also heard from a parent who said her daughter, who receives special education services, is struggling with online learning.

“She needs consistency,” she said.

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