Detroit Public Schools struggle with low attendance during remote learning; in-person classes to resume within two weeks

Empty classroom
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DETROIT (WWJ) -- Detroit Public Schools reported that they're struggling with student attendance during virtual learning, but that may change as they make plans to head into the classroom soon.

DPS superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti reported that as few as 58% of students signed into school on one of the days last week.

The district's average daily attendance at this time is around 80% and Vitti said it's continuing to drop as they stay online.

Vitti said these low attendance numbers are a "worry" for the district -- not only because of student well-being, but it could affect the district financially.

Schools in Michigan can be penalized financially if 75% of students don't attend school on enough days.

But Vitti pointed out that they actually have fewer number of students being chronically absent at this time than they did last year, when average daily attendance was at 71%.

He attributes this to the fact that the district was largely in-person last year, with the exception of individual schools that had to close due to a high number of COVID-19 cases.

DPS is intending to return to in-person learning either the week of Jan. 24 or Jan. 31, once the city's infection rate declines.

During a recent school board meeting, Vitti said the temporary shift to online learning, underway since Jan. 6, prevented further COVID-19 related outbreaks within the district.

He said the district will continue with its COVID testing program, including mandatory weekly testing of all employees and an upcoming mandate that all employees be fully vaccinated.

"This is the only way that we can make employees feel safe in coming to school -- especially with the new variant -- and that's the only way we can stop the spread of COVID," said Vitti.

Vitti is also planning for a testing mandate for all students beginning Jan. 31.

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