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Detroit Superintendent Vitti: Keep Schools Closed Through End of Academic Year

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Image credit: Elizabeth Garrett

Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti asked state officials to make some hard calls by keeping schools closed, providing additional funding for online education and allowing high school seniors a pathway to graduation.

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Schools should not open again this year wrote Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti in an open letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and state leaders Monday.

Click here to read the full letter from Vitti to state leaders.

Here are Vitti’s three recommendations.

1. Keep Schools Closed Until End of Academic Year

Vitti says requiring students to learn online would be disastrous for thousands of low income students and students with disabilities, but measures can be taken to keep students on truck during closure. 

He says districts should be required to provide “enrichment” online. He suggests utilizing state and federal money – along with funds from businesses and philanthropic organizations – to provide laptops and internet access to every student.

To this day we continue to see how students lost required skills, knowledge and credits as a result of the failed experiment to shift an entire sector of the population to an experimental and untested ststem of learning,” writes Vitti. “The solution here is continuing learning opportunities that are enrichment-based, not required.”

The state department of education issued a memo last week explaining that schools cannot claim instructional time during a state-mandated school closure. Whitmer said she was “dismayed” by the department’s position.

Many of the state’s poorer districts have not moved education online and cannot ensure all students would be able to access online learning.

2. Commit to Funding Schools As If They Are In Session

Vitt’s letter also asked that state officials commit to funding schools through the end of the school year – even as schools remain closed.

He explains districts need to know they can provide job security to workers and ongoing support to students and families.

Layoffs and/or salary reductions will create undue havoc for school districts as they attempt to provide a return to normalcy for children and staff during this crisis,” Vitti writes.

3. Allow High School Seniors to Graduate with Completed Credits

Vitti’s final recommendations would allow high school seniors to graduate with the number of credits minus their last semester, allowing students with insufficient credit hours to go to summer school or have them waived by districts. 

He largely leaves it to schools and districts to decide how students should advance. 

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Sascha Raiyn, Education Reporter

Sascha Raiyn is Education Reporter at 101.9 WDET. She is a native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.

sraiyn@wdet.org Follow @raiyn

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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