Students and faculty of the Martin Luther King Jr. Detroit High School walked out on Wednesday to protest the school’s handling of COVID-19. The afternoon strike lasted 20 minutes.
Casey Edgar, a high school math teacher, joined the strike, citing underreported COVID-19 cases by the administration, failed social distancing and no thorough cleanup.
“There is supposed to be social distancing, but some classes are too big for something so basic, that everyone is three feet away from each other,” Edgar said. “We are being endangered.”
She said a hybrid learning option, meaning students alternate between face-to-face and virtual, would be best.
“I don’t think the student did very well with virtual,” Edgar said. “I know they do hybrid at (Cass Technical High School). … That was something that was only offered to Cass and not King.”
King High went virtual last March, Edgar said, and returned to full, in-person classes this fall.
Lyferra Turner, a 10th grader at King High, took part in the walk on Wednesday.
“You come out and protest, you have to be strong, especially because you think it’s your safety,” Turner said.
Director Damian Perry issued a statement to the Free Press on Wednesday afternoon regarding the protest and updated COVID-19 protocols. He said the instruction will be moved online on Fridays in December to allow for a thorough cleaning.
“The COVID concerns shared by some staff members are real and recognized by the district with the recent decision to move the instruction online every Friday in December to allow for a thorough cleaning of all buildings. We will continue to follow district safety guidelines, participate in weekly tests and report positive cases as necessary,” Perry said in the statement.
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Online, Martin Luther King High has reported 11 cases for the week of November 8-12 and 0 cases so far this week. Turner said many of her teachers were absent this week because of COVID-19.
Concern about increasing cases is also rising among parents at other Detroit Public Schools Community District schools.
Melissa Redman, the mother of a freshman at Cass Tech, said she has been receiving repeated reports of cases at the school and wants the school to be temporarily closed for deep cleaning.
“The numbers are still too high,” she says. “One student is enough for me. Because you can’t pinpoint where that student has been.”
Redman’s son, Latrell Maxwell, 14, has had several friends in quarantine in recent weeks.
Online, DPSCD has reported two cases to Cass Tech this week and 16 last week. Redman said Cass’ parents have been notified of nine cases this week.
Renaissance High School has transitioned to distance learning this week until Nov. 29, district spokesman Chrystal Wilson said. She wrote in a text message that the district decided to switch the school to virtual because of “the high probability of related cases across multiple grades and programs.”
The president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, Terrence Martin, said he was aware of a possible protest at the school. The teachers’ union wants at least one day of online learning per week to have more time for thorough cleaning of schools.
“We are also concerned about the cleanliness and hygiene of school buildings,” he said. “We’ve had reports that those things have not been done or have not been done at the level our students and staff deserve.”
Martin added that the ongoing stress of the pandemic is creating a fraught environment for everyone involved.
“I’m burned out, students are burned out, the community is probably very frustrated,” he said. “We try to continue with face-to-face learning for as long and as safely as possible. And now with the increase in the number of cases, we know that we now need a reprieve.”
Contact Minnah Arshad: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @minnaharshad.
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