Southfield (CW50) – In the state of Michigan, most of the decisions on how to reopen schools safely have been left up to the school districts. School districts are individually deciding whether to open with remote or in-person classes. The districts’ plans had to be submitted by August 17th.

Detroit Public Schools Community District, the state’s largest school district, is giving parents the choice between in-person learning and online learning. The school year begins Sept. 8. Read the plan here.

The plans submitted by some of the districts have left various teachers unions feeling that their voices were not heard during the discussions on how to reopen.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, a teachers union which represents about 4,000 district employees, has been very vocal about been left out of initial planning for reopening. The union has released their demands to the Detroit Public Schools Community District on July 28th, in order to ensure the health and safety of the teachers that the union represents.

Terrence Martin, President of Detroit Federation of Teachers (Photo provided by DFT Local 231)

Terrence Martin, President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), said in a recent Town Hall on WDIV, “At the beginning, we [as teachers] were not a part of the process… and we found that very disturbing for our membership… We encourage the school districts to continue the talks that we’ve had just recently… The initial plans certainly did not include teachers in the conversation.” 

Here are some of DFT’s demands:

  • Develop and Implement Plan with Unions.
  • Allow for In Person instruction for some students, who have essential needs, only if Southeast Michigan is in Stage 5 of Michigan’s Safe Start Plan.  
  • Only consider in-person instruction as an option for all students if Southeast Michigan is in Safe Start Stage 6. 
  • Rely on Public Health Officials to Review Reopening Plans and to Provide Ongoing Support.
  • Mandatory Testing Procedures and Exposure Mitigation.
  • Protect Staff Health by Allowing All Employees to Opt into In-person Work.
  • DPSCD Should Provide Increased Compensation ( Hazard Pay) for Employees Who Opt Into In-person Work and Are Considered Essential Workers. 
  • DPSCD Must Provide Physical Packets and Manipulatives for Parents/Families who want to Opt-Out of Online Learning but Keep Their Child(ren) Enrolled in DPSCD. 
  • DPSCD must not contract with private companies to outsource school services and/or staff jobs.

All of the demands were responded to by Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and discussions have been ongoing with unions.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers voted to approve the use “safety strike” as a bargaining chip for negotiations during their monthly membership meeting Wednesday, August 19th. The vote overwhelmingly passed and negotiations with the school district are on going.

Community Connect Host Lisa Germani, with Terrence Martin, President of Detroit Federation of Teachers

Terrence Martin, President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, joins Lisa Germani on Community Connect to talk about how his members are feeling about going back to school, and what the latest developments are of the union’s plans to possibly strike if safety demands are not met.

Watch COMMUNITY CONNECT, Saturday at 8:30am on CW50