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Schools close, and open, because of the coronavirus pandemic

The controversy surrounding face-to-face learning amid the pandemic continues to boil with several schools closing because of reported cases, while other schools look to reopen amid better news.
Novi High School halted its face-to-face learning temporarily this week, as did Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills. Some Detroit teachers planned to protest their own union Friday saying it erred by agreeing to face-to-face learning.
But districts like Birmingham, Livonia and Utica, which began the year in all-virtual modes, are looking to get kids back into classrooms.
“It’s completely variable around the state,” said Don Wotruba of the Michigan Association of School Boards. “Most of the stuff that schools are dealing with, it’s really outside of their control. They can only react to their communities and then make decisions based on the numbers and the safety of the kids and their teaching staff at that time.”
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Some Detroit teachers are upset with their union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, saying COVID-19 cases have been reported in at least three schools.
“DFT members voted 91% against reopening the schools because we know these buildings are not safe and cannot be made safe,” said Ben Royal of the BAMN caucus, a group within the union that has steadfastly opposed face-to-face learning. “Yet DFT President Terrence Martin signed an agreement with the administration to allow the schools to reopen anyway.”
Royal said Martin prevented a strike vote Thursday and ended the meeting to stop discussion. Martin didn’t respond to a request for comment left with spokeswoman LaToya Henry.
“We are picketing and marching today to make clear that this fight is not over and that we are determined to restore union democracy and shut down face-to-face schools until the pandemic is contained,” Royal said.
District spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said the district did have two cases reported at Academy of the Americas, an elementary/middle school in southwest Detroit. One of those cases later appeared to be negative, and there is no evidence the kids caught it at the school.
“We did confirm with the health department again tonight that the two cases do not qualify as an outbreak because they’re not epidemiologically connected,” Wilson said Friday. “It was connected to their family member and transmission is not traced to the school.”
Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said last week that two staffers at Dixon Educational Learning Center had tested positive and the district worked with the Detroit Health Department to determine who should quarantine. Vitti didn’t say how many people were quarantined. There is no indication that they interacted with each other, Vitti said.

Royal also said that a positive case was reported at Maybury Elementary School in southwest Detroit. Wilson confirmed that and said families were notified.

Wilson said that after consulting with the health department and the teachers and administrators, the district decided to not quarantine students and staff.

Vitti said in a statement last week that some cases are to be expected.
“We will have positive cases among employees and students. This is inevitable,” Vitti said. “We’ve seen this in the district, in other districts throughout Michigan, including suburban, rural, and private schools, all of which have moved forward with offering face-to-face options for students despite positive cases.”
Vitti said the district has been transparent with families about the cases it has found.
“We believe we are implementing all of the best practices for COVID safety,” he said.

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In Novi, the district informed families Wednesday that the high school would conduct classes online Thursday and Friday.
“We have had 5 students at Novi High School test positive this week,” Novi Superintendent Steve Matthews said in a note to parents. “The Oakland County Health Division has not had time to complete their investigation and …
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