AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift: ‘AAPS is currently experiencing the highest number of student and staff cases since the pandemic began’

October 7, 2021

Today we must clarify inaccurate information currently being shared on social media regarding quarantine and other COVID-related information in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

It is important to address these issues of misinformation and clarify the facts.

Quarantine Protocols 

In mid-September, AAPS implemented the WCHD-approved quarantine option for parents to choose a “7 day with negative test” quarantine for their student(s). This protocol has reduced the number of days students spend in quarantine from the traditional 10 days. High vaccination rates among our students ages 12+ have limited the number of secondary students needing to quarantine. This is excellent news for our Ann Arbor Public Schools community.

School nurses on the AAPS COVID-19 Response Team are conducting detailed case investigations on each student and staff case. They consult with the WCHD on each case to confirm the students identified as close contacts who need to quarantine. Some students identified as close contacts based on classroom exposure, particularly at the elementary level, have tested positive while in quarantine. Often these students do not appear on the district dashboard because they were not in school while contagious.

AAPS is currently experiencing the highest number of student and staff cases since the pandemic began. Quarantine continues to be a critical mitigation strategy to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in our buildings. With the step of quarantine, we have effectively reduced COVID spread in our schools.

As a result, at this time, based on AAPS infection data and in close consultation with the Washtenaw County Health Department, we will continue the mitigation step of quarantine.

Once pediatric vaccines become available, anticipated later this fall, it is also expected that if we achieve a similarly high uptake of vaccines among our younger students as a school community, fewer students will be impacted by quarantine in the lower grades moving forward, also.

Testing in the AAPS

“Test to Stay” 

Over the last several days, we have received questions about the “Test to Stay” option. “Test to Stay” programs typically do not quarantine some students but instead test students three or more times a week at school.

First, it’s important to note that “Test to Stay” programs have a relatively narrow focus: only students who are close contacts from the school bus and core classrooms are eligible. Students who are close contacts from elsewhere during the school day, including PE, some special classes, the cafeteria and some extracurricular activities, are not able to “Test and Stay.” Second, as noted in the previous section, some close contact students in the district have tested positive while in quarantine.

With the high number of cases impacting our buildings, it is not yet advisable to implement a “Test to Stay” program at this current time. AAPS will consider implementing such a program when the current student case surge decreases.

Strategic Pop-Up Testing

Over the past two weeks, the AAPS COVID-19 Response Team has deployed pop-up strategic testing for students and staff in response to specific case situations across our schools. Parents are contacted when testing is offered for students at their school. All testing is administered only with parent permission, and this strategic testing plan is proving productive to support continued attendance while preserving COVID health and safety at our schools.

Continued Screening Testing of Staff
In addition, we continue to use weekly screening testing for staff in the AAPS, and we encourage parents to access testing for students anytime there is a concern.

Pittsfield Elementary

This week, additional cases have been identified at Pittsfield and will be reported on tomorrow’s dashboard. The investigation into potential school transmission and outbreak status is ongoing and now led by the Washtenaw County Health Department. AAPS remains in close communication with the WCHD about Pittsfield cases.

Last Friday, the decision to move Pittsfield to remote learning status for this week was made under the advisement of the Washtenaw County Health Department, based on three factors: confirmed cases, high levels of student absences (30% of the student body), and many students necessarily in quarantine.

We will continue to hold the health and safety of our students and staff, families and community as our highest priority, and we look forward to seeing our students and staff back together at Pittsfield beginning on Monday, October 11, 2021.

Next Steps

We are hopeful that this current wave of cases impacting our AAPS schools will decrease as the trend nationally shows declining numbers of cases. Our COVID response team, including school nurses and building leaders alongside school teams, are working long hours every day to maintain the safest school environments possible to sustain this full reopening of our schools.

The recent positive news regarding vaccination availability for children aged 5-11 years is encouraging. A meeting to review the next steps with pediatric vaccination is planned for the end of October, and vaccines may potentially be available later this fall. Also, there is reassuring news that teachers and members of our AAPS team now qualify for critical booster vaccinations in the occupational category, and sufficient supplies of vaccines and boosters are readily available.

These developments will contribute to sustaining our schools as safe and healthy places for our students and staff each day throughout this school year.

We will continue to maintain the health and safety of our students and staff as our top priority throughout this COVID-19 pandemic; this focus and priority will not falter.

For the most up-to-date AAPS protocols throughout the school year, please visit the AAPS COVID Health and Safety Protocols located on the district homepage (last updated Friday, Sept. 25).

Thank you for your support of our students and staff, the Ann Arbor Public Schools and this wonderful Ann Arbor community.