Car caravan protest in metro Detroit demands schools not reopen face-to-face classes amid coronavirus pandemic


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As the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase in Michigan, educators, students, parents, administrators, and others are holding a car caravan in metro Detroit on Tuesday to demand that school campuses don’t open during the pandemic.

The Refuse to Return coalition is calling for school campuses to remain closed until counties report no new cases of coronavirus for at least 14 days.

“Until then, we are calling for a robust distance learning program at every school and universal access to the technology needed to engage in distance learning,” the coalition states. “We also demand the public health and economic relief measures needed to control this pandemic, as multiple countries and regions within countries around the world have already done.”

The caravan is set to begin at 10 a.m. at the Detroit Meijer on Eight Mile and Woodward. The participating cars, which will be decorated with messages of support, will pass by Renaissance High School in Detroit and then Ferndale and Oak Park high schools before ending at a rally with social distancing at Beaudette Park in Pontiac.

The event is co-sponsored by the Michigan Caucus of Rank and File Educators (MI-CORE) and the Michigan United Stakeholders & Champions of Learning Equity (M.U.S.C.L.E). The primary organizer is Michigan for a Safe Return to Campus.

The coronavirus is on the rise in Michigan, which reported an average of more than 520 new cases a day so far this month. In June, the state averaged 216 new daily cases. Since March, the coronavirus has killed more than 6,149 Michigan residents, with more than 78,000 confirmed infections.

Earlier this month, the Detroit Public Schools Community District reopened classrooms for face-to-face summer school, drawing protests and lawsuits. Two students have already tested positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not yet decided whether schools will reopen for in-person classes when the official beginning of the 2020-21 school year begins Sept. 8.

"The historical and epidemiological evidence is clear: schools are wildly unsafe places to gather during a pandemic, especially in a country that has so brutally failed to control the spread of this disease like the United States," the coalition states. "Even in states and districts previously committed to opening campuses this August and September against the wisdom of educators and public health experts, we have seen a steady trickle of school districts acknowledge that the academic year must start online this fall. However, we cannot settle for this victory. States and districts have indicated the desire to reopen long before it is safe to do so, threatening to put school staff, students, and families in the same situation we find ourselves now. And plenty still have indicated their intent to reopen campuses for full, in-person learning, sentencing countless school staff and children to suffer extreme illness, financial hardship, and death."

The Refuse to Return coalition also has an online petition demanding that schools don't open until coronavirus cases flatten.

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