COVID-19 infections force schools in Michigan to close

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The Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee organizes the fight against unsafe conditions in schools. We urge all educators and parents across the state to register today for our next meeting at 2 p.m. EDT this Sunday, October 31 and invite your colleagues, family and friends!

Fully reopened K-12 schools across Michigan continue to be severely affected by COVID-19. According to the latest data released on Monday, 76 more outbreaks have occurred in schools, leading to the infection of at least 428 students and staff. Although this is a slight decrease in the weekly number of new outbreaks, the state Department of Health and Human Services continues to monitor 497 active outbreaks, up 18% from last week , affecting at least 5,186 students and staff. K-12 schools have once again been the single largest source of COVID-19 outbreaks in Michigan workplaces.

Skyline High School in Ann Arbor (Source: Wikipedia)

Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Superintendent Jeanice Swift announced on Wednesday that all schools in the district will be closed on Monday, November 1.[i]n in order to confidently and safely staff our buildings every day, we are open for classes… ”The move follows a number of one-day building closures in the neighborhood due to a staff shortage. On Monday, AAPS closed A2 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) for in-person teaching and moved online classes for the day due to understaffing.

Two high schools, Huron and Skyline, as well as Forsythe Middle School, were closed last Friday for the same reason. Without asserting the obvious fact that COVID-19 is spreading throughout the district, Superintendent Swift attributed the shortage of teachers and staff to “high levels of illness and staff absence in all AAPS.” Swift said last Thursday: “This is an emergency measure made necessary by the many unfilled positions in the district and the inability to fully staff our schools of tomorrow.”

Earlier this fall, Pittsfield and Burns Park elementary schools in Ann Arbor were closed to in-person instruction after the Washtenaw County Department of Health identified outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools. In October alone, 44 students and staff at Huron High School contracted the disease.

A review of the Ann Arbor Public Schools COVID Dashboard reveals that between October 1 and October 22, 174 students and 35 staff reported testing positive for COVID-19. The total number of students and employees at Ann Arbor who have contracted the virus so far this school year is 265. As this data represents self-reports, the actual numbers could be significantly higher.

Staff shortages at schools in Ann Arbor and across Michigan include a shortage of substitute teachers, with 20% more positions unfilled than in previous school years, according to Brian Dunn, director of EduStaff, an agency which subcontracts substitute teachers in the state.

“Schools compete with all businesses, not just with each other,” Dunn told the Detroit Free Press. “They are competing with all the companies around every corner looking to hire someone.”

In Wednesday’s announcement, Swift briefly acknowledged that staff shortages “will be exacerbated during this COVID period.” However, she concluded the announcement by stressing “the critical importance of having our students and staff together at school every day, we can do it safely.”

Of course, Ann Arbor isn’t alone in Michigan, whether it’s over staff shortages or school closings blatantly blamed on COVID-19. On October 22, the Detroit Public School Community District announced that Bates Academy would be closed to in-person teaching and that classes would move online until Monday, November 1 due to “multiple” cases of COVID-19.

Significantly, the announcement of the closure of Bates Academy blamed the closure on “concerns raised by staff and families.” Clearly, there is a growing climate of opposition at school in response to the upsurge in infections. This opposition needs to be developed and rooted in a scientific understanding of COVID-19 and its spread.

On Sunday October 24, World Socialist Website hosted a global online webinar, “How to Stop the Pandemic,” which featured leading scientists and workers dedicated to ending COVID-19. The event highlighted the proposition that the COVID-19 pandemic can and must end.

Much of the material presented during the webinar focused on the effects of COVID-19 on children and youth, including a terrifying presentation by epidemiologist Dr Deepti Gurdasani on the effects of the persistent disease – Long COVID – on the lungs, the brain (especially on emotions and memory) and other organs. Dr Gurdasani pointed out that a person who has had mild symptoms and has “recovered” may, after seven to twelve months, develop severe damage to the lungs. Several scientists on the panel noted that in this regard, the disease looks more like a lasting affliction, like polio, than the flu.

The prevalence of Long COVID in children is not well understood. Nonetheless, studies have suggested that children are at least as susceptible to Long COVID as adults. The first study of this phenomenon was conducted by the University of Gemelli in Italy in 2020, which found that a third of a sample of children still reported one to two symptoms four months after infection. A quarter of the children had three or more symptoms.

The UK Office of National Statistics reported in February 2021 that 9.8% of children aged two to 11 and 13% of children aged 12 to 16 still had at least one symptom five weeks after infection. . A more recent study published in June this year, conducted by epidemiologist Dr Pia Hardelid of University College London, found that 4.6% of children still had symptoms four weeks after infection. Such information is not well publicized in the corporate press, and for good reason. If such information were widely known, parents would quickly force schools to close.

The political pressure to keep schools open is enormous. It emanates throughout from President Biden, who, when taking office, said all schools must reopen by Easter. It emanates from Wall Street and the Republican and Democratic parties that serve the interests of Wall Street, and it emanates from state and local politicians, powerful business leaders and right-wing parent groups, such as Ann’s Reasonable Return Arbor to in-person learning.

Parents and teachers concerned about the health and safety of their children, students and themselves should not rely on principals for their protection. Nor should they put any hope in the treacherous teachers’ unions. After all, it was American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, herself a multimillionaire, who made it clear last summer at every teachers’ assembly she spoke to that he was out of the picture. question of returning to virtual education in the fall. In a speech in May, Weingarten proclaimed: “There is no doubt: schools must be open. In person. Five days a week. “His reason?” Parents rely on schools not only to educate their children, but so that they can work, like the three million mothers who left the workforce during the pandemic. “

It is only on themselves that staff and families can and should count to tackle the homicidal policy of reopening schools and workplaces during a raging pandemic the ruling class insists on. In Michigan, the United States, and around the world, industrial workers, educators, and other workers form grassroots committees, democratic workers’ bodies that are completely independent of corporate unions. The Michigan Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee was formed last year to organize the fight against unsafe school reopens. We urge all educators and parents in Ann Arbor, Detroit and statewide to register today for our next meeting at 2 p.m. EDT this Sunday, October 31.


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