Detroit schools reopen for in-person learning but face teacher shortage

It's a big day for the state's largest school district in Detroit.

"It's good to see students back, it is great to see teachers back in school," said Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent.

The head of the Detroit Public Schools Community District and the President of the teachers union was on hand Monday morning to welcome students and families back to in-person learning now that Covid 19 infection rates have significantly declined. 

But as the doors to schools reopened the district faces a major challenge with a teacher shortage.

"When you look at the family demand or the student demand for in-person, and you try to match it with teacher demand, it is an imbalance right now," Vitti said.

That's because some DPSCD teachers haven't returned, arguing in-person learning is not safe enough yet. 

"The fact that there is no vaccine for children, is not the right time to reopen schools," said Nicole Conway, DPSCD teacher, and BAMN member. "We know that the new variants are more dangerous to children."

One mom of DPSCD students agrees and has decided to continue with online learning for now. 

"I really don't know and I'm not so sure because I am not willing to put them at risk," said Layika Bryant. 

DPSCD is following safety protocols and the teachers' union says its pleased mitigation strategies have been implemented 

"You see small class sizes and students six feet apart in classrooms," said Terrence Martin, teachers union president.

School leaders believe as more and more teachers get vaccinated, and they hear positive news from those back in the classroom, more will come back.

\"Once that happens I think we will see more teachers will matriculate back to in-person learning," Martin said.

"I'm encouraged that as the days pass, as the months pass, more will return," Vitti said. 

Some teachers say the hazard pay won't bring them back.

"The hazard pay to me is actually an insult," Conway said. "I think it is a bribe, I think of it as blood money."

Conway wants the community to learn more about the science of reopening schools at an upcoming event.

"Join BAMN on Saturday," she said. "We are going to have a virtual tribunal, we will have experts present the science."