If COVID Cases Spike, Detroit Schools Might Reconsider In-Person Class

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says if positive infection rate rises above 5%, “myself and the board will start to have conversations if it’s still safe to keep schools open.”

The state’s largest school district could stop allowing in-person instruction if coronavirus cases spike.

Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti tells WDET’s Stephen Henderson that the district is keeping a close eye on the city’s infection rate.

“If we start to climb above 5%, obviously, myself and the board will start to have conversations if it’s still safe to keep schools open,” says Vitti. “If we start getting into 6% – 7% it’s probably likely that we would not allow any kind of face-to-face or even our learning centers to take place.”

Vitti’s office later clarified that by “infection rate,” he means the rate of “positive tests over the last seven days.” According to the state’s numbers, Detroit City currently has 2.2% positive tests over the last 7 days. It was exactly 2% last week on October 15.

Listen: Dr. Nikolai Vitti and DPSCD Board Member Sonya Mays talk about running the state’s largest school district in the COVID era.


Dr. Nikolai Vitti is superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), which is giving students, families, and teachers the option to either attend classes in person or virtually. Vitti made a number of bold decisions about allowing students to return to classes before most other districts in the state had made those choices. He says the results have been good in terms of keeping students, teachers, and staff safe. But it has been a struggle on the academic side as they adapt to online instruction.

“After over a month of school we haven’t had any outbreaks in the school district… No student has been hospitalized,” says Vitti. “But it’s been hard. It’s been hard to work through online learning challenges.”

Sonya Mays is a member of the DPSCD school board. She says the community in and around the district has done a good job adjusting to the new realities of school amid a global pandemic.

“Sometimes people forget that schools are naturally in the business of safety and security for students,” says Mays on Detroit Today. “Given the circumstances the leadership and staff and parents and grandparents have reacted remarkably well.”

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