Detroit Will Close Schools on Fridays for 'Deep Cleaning'

Cleaning process does not decrease COVID infections, studies show

Getty Images
November 18, 2021

Detroit's public school district will for the month of December switch to a four-day in-person school week, citing COVID-19 protocols that scientists have found to be futile.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Wednesday that he made the decision based on "the need for mental health relief, rising COVID cases, and time to more thoroughly clean schools." Assistant Superintendent for Operations Machion Jackson in a Monday committee said the district prioritizes "deep cleaning."

Studies have shown that "deep cleaning"—disinfecting a building floor-to-ceiling—does little to prevent COVID-19, with experts last year telling the Washington Post that the process "may be a waste of time." A December 2020 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology study found that "deep cleaning" harms people with asthma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that "the risk of [COVID-19] infection from touching a surface is low."

The "mental health relief" Vitti mentioned likely refers teachers' unions' demands that the district return to remote learning.

The four-day week "makes all the sense in the world considering the mental health and burnout for our folks," Detroit Federation of Teachers president Terrence Martin said Wednesday.

Studies have found that virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic has hindered students' education, including in Michigan, where nearly 5 percent of third graders now lag behind at least a year or more in reading.

The decision comes as Detroit schools face challenges over chronic absenteeism. The Detroit Free Press reported the day before Vitti's announcement that 57 percent of the city's schoolchildren are chronically absent, which means that they have missed 10 percent or more of school days.

School districts across the country have struggled to get students to show up for virtual learning.