With 36 Percent COVID Infection Rate, Detroit Schools Close Till Wednesday, May Go Virtual

As COVID cases rise across the state, including a 36 percent infection rate in Detroit, the Detroit Public Schools Community District announced its schools will be closed through at least Wednesday and is considering a shift to remote learning.

The change in Detroit was one of the most significant in the state as many schools readied to return from winter breaks this week. Several districts canceled school or moved to remote classes for at least Monday.

Last week, Detroit schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti announced the district's decision to close and said the spike of cases in the city was a major reason.

"This high rate of infection will inevitably mean that a return to in-person learning on Monday, 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," Vitti said on the district's website.

Vitti also said a shift to remote learning was being considered as the district will evaluate plans to distribute laptops to students who don't have a computer at home and will likely have a decision by Wednesday.

"We simply cannot go online district-wide Monday ... because all of our students do not have laptops," he said.

Michigan, COVID Cases, School Districts
Face masks sit on a table outside of Schoolcraft Elementary for students and parents to wear when entering the building on the first day of school on Aug. 30, 2021 in Schoolcraft, Michigan. Several school districts in Michigan have canceled classes Monday because of spiking COVID cases in the state. Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

Ann Arbor Public Schools in Washtenaw County will go to remote learning Wednesday through Friday.

Just north of Detroit, Oak Park Public Schools cancelled classes Monday and said learning would be held virtually through the rest of the week, while Southfield Public Schools shifted to online remote learning for the entire week.

The Lansing School District also shifted to virtual learning for the week. Teachers and staff in Lansing still will be required to report to their schools.

In Pontiac, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Detroit, public school classes will be online until Jan. 18. The moves follow the state's reporting of more than 25,800 new virus cases and 338 deaths on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Since Thursday, Michigan has recorded 61,235 new virus cases and 298 additional deaths, according to state health officials.

Teachers, administrators and other district employees in Detroit schools were being required to get tested for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday.

Ann Arbor schools anticipate a return to classrooms on Jan. 10 for students and staff.

"We are using all the tools we have implemented and refined during this past year to maintain the priority of critical in-school learning for our students across ... classrooms on as many days as possible, even as we face this current winter surge," the district said on its webpage.

Health officials have warned that new cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant have the potential to strain hospitals and staff.

In Michigan, the number of hospitalized adults with confirmed infections rose to roughly 3,900 Monday, up more than 240 from five days earlier, according to state health officials.

The figure had been dropping or holding steady for a couple of weeks from a record high of about 4,500 in mid-December.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.