Back to School: Detroit Muslim Parents Face Tough Choices

School is back in session after long months of shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the COVID-19 cases increase in September, many school districts waited for long time before making a decision on how to conduct lessons.

Some districts, such as the Royal Oak school district, a suburb north of Detroit, are offering parents no option for in-person attendance for their children.

An initial plan in the district had students attending class in-person part-time, with reduced class sizes. But this plan was changed in August during the pandemic second wave. 

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“We do not believe this is the best plan for September 2020,” said the superintendent in a public announcement. After a special board meeting, the decision was made for the entire district to be only remote. Appropriate technology will be provided to families who require it.

This sort of district-unified decision is not the only route being taken in the region. One Muslim mother, Tatheer, has a child attending National Heritage Academies (NHA), a network of charter schools in Metro Detroit.

NHA is offering a hybrid option where children will do some work in-person and some work remote. It also offers a full remote option.

“NHA offered hybrid or virtual,” sister Tatheer told AboutIslam. “I chose virtual from September to November. We can change at the end of the first semester.”

Sister Tatheer also has a son who attends a school for children with special needs. For this school, she was given the choice of full remote or full in-person.

“I like online mode better now for obvious reasons,” she said. “My elder son with special needs, I know he misses his routine and seeing teachers, but his health is [of] the most concern. That is why we are very cautious.”

📚 Read Also: How to Prepare for Another Covid-19 School Year

Her child attending NHA, however, is excited about staying home, Tatheer says.

Detroit Muslim Parents Face Various Choices for School Tough Decisions

Islamic Schools Plan

Due to the large Muslim population in the Metro Detroit area, the region is blessed with a very big Islamic school, called Huda School.

Rachel, who preferred to mention her first name only, has a daughter who attends this school.

No administrators for Huda School were available for comment, but Rachel was able to fill AboutIslam in on the school’s safety plan for students. 

In Michigan’s current COVID status, Huda is offering a choice of full-time in-person instruction to students, or remote learning.

Huda School has provided an extensive explanation of safety protocols to parents. The protocols include required mask-wearing at all times except during meals, touch-free hand sanitizer stations throughout the school, desks put six feet apart, and health screening. 

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In spite of the precautions Huda School is taking, Rachel has opted to keeping her daughter at home.

“As someone who is a nurse, I have seen even contact precautions spread like wildfire because of a couple people that didn’t wash their hands or wear protective equipment properly,” she told AboutIslam.

Rachel also expressed concerns about the mental health of children who will be interacting with friends at school in such unusual ways.

“I … did not want my children to be subjected to the harsh social distancing measures … being far apart and no interactions on the playground.”

Therefore, Rachel is subscribing to a virtual academy out of Oxford, Michigan. 

There are no easy answers for parents faced with these choices surrounding health and their children’s education. For all of us with school aged children, this is uncharted territory.

May Allah guide us all to make the best decision for our families and for the benefit of public health.

About Leah Mallery
Leah is a Muslim convert of almost a decade. She has two kids, an intercultural marriage, and half of a French degree in her back pocket, looking to switch gears to science and medicine. She has lived abroad for over a decade, having just recently become reacquainted with her roots in America. She currently lives in Michigan near her family and – masha’Allah – a sizeable Muslim community.