Parents and teachers advocating for virtual learning at Dearborn Public Schools as omicron surges

Local chiropractor gives tips on setting up virtual learning workspace for kids
Posted at 7:22 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 07:22:34-05

DEARBORN, MI (WXYZ) — The debate on whether students should be learning virtually or in person is causing tension in some metro Detroit communities.

Administrators in Harper Woods put a pause on face-to-face instruction and now frustrated parents are speaking out.

This comes as new data shows a serious uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly one million children have tested positive for COVID-19 just last week.

In Dearborn, kids are still going to school but some teachers don't think it's safe. A group of parents and teachers started an online petition asking for Dearborn Public School leaders to shut down in-person learning.

The petition listed low vaccination rates, lack of COVID protocols, and burnt-out staff as just some of the reasons why the district should temporarily go virtual.

"The spread of Omicron is so rapid that we have, in the past two weeks, I had 20 to 30 percent of students at any given time," teacher at Fordson High School Joseph Sicheneder said.

Sicheneder says covid has wiped out more than half of his class. Students are either infected or were exposed to the virus. He says it's clear learning face to face is a liability.

"We want to try and minimize the amount of spreading that can happen in schools because schools are such a large gathering place," he said.

The ninth-grade biology teacher is an advocate for safe working conditions. He's made this apparent at a recent school board meeting.

"We are exhausted, stressed," he said during the meeting. "And feel the district doesn't have our safety in mind."

He and other teachers started an online petition hoping district leaders will pause face-to-face instruction. A not-so-popular decision that was made in Harper Woods.

"My son was almost in tears when he found out he had to go back online," one mom said.

Harper Woods Superintendent Steven Mcghee says they are waiting for the current surge to peak before they bring students back.

"We were originally supposed to come back, but we decided to go a couple more days," he said. "We know that the contagious is still rapid."

Something Sicheneder and Mcghee see eye to eye on.

But some parents at Harper Woods say their kids need to be learning in a classroom.

"Don't make these kids suffer," Harper Woods parent Christie said.

Superintendent Mcghee says he will update parents before the end of the week on whether they will remain virtual.