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Detroit Public Schools cancels classes — both in-person and virtual — for three days next week due to Omicron panic

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Photo by Kayla Ruble for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Giving parents a whopping three days' notice, Detroit Public Schools announced Friday that they would cancel all classes, both virtual and in-person, for at least Monday through Wednesday of next week, according to WKBD-TV.

In a letter to parents, DPS superintendent Nikolai Vitti claimed, "As you may know, the city’s infection rate is at an all-time high of 36%. Infection rates at the county, tri-county, and state levels are also high. In fact, with several employees voluntarily testing through the district this week, our infection rate is nearly 20%. This high rate of infection will inevitably mean that a return to in person learning on Monday, January 3, 2022, with nearly 8,000 employees and partners and nearly 50,000 students will lead to extensive COVID spread placing employees, students, and families at risk along with excessive staff shortages due to positive and close contact scenarios. This is especially the case with an overall low rate of vaccination within the city and among students."

Vitti's claims run counter to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that, "When a combination of effective prevention strategies is implemented and strictly adhered to in the K-12 in-person learning environment, the risk of transmission in the school setting appears to be lower than or equivalent to the transmission risk in other community settings." Numerous scientific studies have likewise concluded that the risk of COVID transmission in schools is lower than the risk of transmission from most other community settings.

In spite of the overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence, Vitti continued, "Instead, employees will be required to take a COVID test on Monday and Tuesday through the district and we encourage all students to test as well Monday-Friday but as soon as possible next week at no cost through the district."

Additionally, although Detroit Public Schools has offered parents an in-person or virtual option throughout much of the pandemic, Vitti claimed that the district was apparently not able to offer even a virtual learning option for students impacted by the sudden closure announcement, saying, "We simply cannot go online districtwide Monday, January 3rd because all of our students do not have laptops."

Vitti's message closed with an ominous sign for parents who want their children to return to school in a timely fashion, or even to be given advance warning of school closures: "The district will announce plans for Thursday and Friday on Wednesday afternoon or evening."

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