DETROIT - Detroit schools may be reopening its doors next week to summer courses, but not everyone is pleased with the timing.
With a scheduled start to classes on July 13, Detroit Public Schools looks to welcome back students for the first time since districts closed their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In Michigan and Detroit, COVID-19 cases have flattened and remain steadily low - but the virus is still present in the state.
And bringing back kids to enclosed spaces amid uncertainty could spark another outbreak in the city, critics say.
"It is risking the health and lives of the students, their parents, everyone in these school communities," said Benjamin Royal, a teacher. "Putting these students in classrooms with teachers is just a recipe for a renewed outbreak in Detroit and we want to stop that before it happens."
Several members of the district took to the streets around Bennett Elementary School on Mullane Street to protest the reopening. Several protesters taped signs like "Mass Testing Before Reopening Schools!" and "Keep our teachers, students and families safe learning from home" to their cars.
"Every level of government, federal, state, local needs to have a plan to fight this pandemic," Royal said. "Once that is done, then we can talk about reopening the buildings and making up for lost time."
The alternative to in-person teaching is remote learning. The district and several Detroit businesses leaned into the substitute teaching style when students received tablets to keep up with their classes from home.
DPSCD said the option would be available in a couple of different formats come to the fall start of classes.
But many argue remote learning is a poor surrogate for classroom teaching. Public health experts have made the argument that subsequent educational and social damage to children not going to school is necessary, even if it means considering the public health status of the state.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said part of the reasons she closed ordered indoor service at bars to close was to put the state in the best position to reopen districts for fall classes.
“If we want to be in a strong position to reopen schools for in-person classroom instruction this fall, then we need to take aggressive action right now to ensure we don’t wipe out all the progress we have made," she said last week.
Despite much still being unknown about the coronavirus, younger people appear to be least threatened by its symptoms. Even so, a growing consensus finds that young people are increasingly becoming vectors for transmission in the state as more businesses have reopened. As evidence from a recent outbreak at an East Lansing bar shows, the virus can quickly find new hosts after large crowds disperse.
Whether students in K-12 settings will just as easily transmit the disease is unclear. During a White House Coronavirus Taskforce press conference on Wednesday, the CDC director said they didn't have evidence that kids were transmitting the disease.
Detroit, still licking its wounds from one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country, has cautiously reopened several sectors of public life and private businesses. Under the district's plans, summer classes would be offered four days a week from July 13 through Aug. 6. In-person instruction would be limited to 15 students per classroom. Classes for K-8 will be taught at 18 sites around the city, and high schools offering course recovery for missed credits in the spring will be available at five different buildings.
Another protest is also scheduled tomorrow at Brown Academy.