Detroit Public Schools Extends Virtual Learning Amid Struggling With Online Student Attendance

Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Chrissy Clark Contributor
Font Size:

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) pushed back its return to in-person learning date as it continues to struggle with low student attendance in online classes, according to data from the district’s superintendent.

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti informed parents Jan. 12 that virtual learning will continue until Jan. 24 or “at the very latest” Jan. 31, citing current COVID-19 Omicron variant infection rates. Vitti told the Daily Caller that the district will return to in-person learning “no later than Jan. 31.”

A return to in-person instruction will be available only to students who complete “consent to COVID test” forms by Jan. 31. Students who fail to complete the forms will “be transferred to the district’s virtual school,” according to Vitti’s announcement.

The district is reportedly struggling with virtual attendance, according to the Detroit Free Press. Only 58% of DPSCD students attended online classes Jan. 7, according to data Vitti presented at a school board meeting. The numbers rose over the following days, with attendance hitting 76% on Jan. 12.

Detroit schools have struggled with absenteeism before the pandemic, according to a study from Michigan’s Wayne State University. The study found that “even before the pandemic, more than half of Detroit students were considered ‘chronically absent,’ missing 10% or more of the school year.” The pandemic exacerbated the attendance problem, according to the study.

The study claims pre-pandemic barriers to attendance, such as transportation, will become even more challenging in the wake of the pandemic. (RELATED: Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Calls For Student Vax Mandate After Closing Schools)

DPSCD could face financial penalties for its low attendance numbers during virtual learning, according to a state law enacted in July 2021. The law requires that districts have at least 180 days where district-wide attendance hits at least 75 percent “to avoid a deduction in state aid payments.”

COVID-19 school closures have disproportionately impacted minority students, according to a study of 4.4 million students. The study found that test scores of black, Hispanic, and poor children took the biggest hit from school closures, with math scores of vulnerable students dropping up to 10 percentage points between 2019 and 2020.

DPSCD’s enrollment data shows that more than 82 percent of students identify as black and over 13 percent identify as Hispanic.