Hello Students and Staff, Families and Community,
We are vigorously preparing for back-to-school 2021; excitement is growing as teachers and school staff engage in final preparations this week. We also understand that concerns continue regarding the reopening of schools during this COVID pandemic, particularly for those students under twelve years who are not yet able to receive a vaccination and are further complicated by the presence of the Delta variant.
There are many questions and details to confirm to ensure a COVID-informed, healthy and safe reopening of schools and information continues to evolve rapidly. As we have committed, we continue to clarify and refine our work and processes and will communicate consistently to share updated information. We appreciate all who have reached out to communicate with us and will continue to work to ensure that you have clear and up-to-date information shared directly to your email each week.
As we have from the beginning, we will continue to hold as our top priority the health and safety of students, staff, families and community. We continue careful daily monitoring and work closely with the Washtenaw County Health Department team. We continue our commitment to fully open our schools and to sustain our classrooms and schools as healthy and safe places for our students and staff throughout this 2021-2022 school year.
Highlights of this Back-to-School Update:
- Updated AAPS COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols, including quarantine and testing
- Lunch and Learning Outdoors in the AAPS
- Improvement of Ventilation In AAPS Schools
Important Updates to AAPS COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols, Fall 2021
We continue work during this week to prepare all staff for school opening, including a review of the AAPS Super Six mitigation strategies. We are seeing a solid staff response to the proof of vaccine process and can confirm a high vaccination rate; a high vaccination uptake is one among many ways our AAPS team continues to demonstrate our shared commitment to the core value of care for our students and each other. Once the confirmation process is complete, we will share the data on staff vaccination rates publicly.
In close consultation and with the support of the Washtenaw County Health Department, the AAPS has updated protocols for unvaccinated close contacts in the school setting.
AAPS will continue to require a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated students who are close contacts of an infected individual at school.
We will carefully monitor cases identified at school and whether there is transmission occurring within our buildings. With the Super Six layered prevention strategies and an extremely high vaccination rate among AAPS staff, we are hopeful that in-school transmission will be minimal.
We will continue to monitor as our understanding of transmission risk grows during this fall and will consider any appropriate adjustments needed as we work through this school year.
Clarification on Testing in the AAPS
Testing will occur to support staff and students in our AAPS community.
Back-to-School and Ongoing Testing All AAPS students, families and staff are encouraged to get tested before returning to school and ongoing as needed. No-cost testing is available at numerous locations in and around Ann Arbor. LynxDx drive-thru PCR at 648 S. Wagner Road in Ann Arbor offers testing 7 days/week. When registering, ignore the Detroit Public School info and click on the blue “Begin” button at the bottom of the screen: https://lynxdx.health/register. Additional testing resources are available here.
Screening Testing AAPS will offer drive-thru screening testing weekly for staff, including some availability also for students. More specific information will be shared about available screening testing.
Additional testing Testing will be used as an additional layer in our AAPS schools. As feasible, school nurses will use testing as a tool, with parent permission, when appropriate to support students.
As always, AAPS will keep you updated with new COVID-19 developments and guidance. We are grateful to the Washtenaw County Health Department for the close partnership in preventing COVID-19 transmission throughout this pandemic.
You may read the full AAPS AAPS COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols, Fall 2021 here.
AAPS Outdoor Lunch and Learning in the AAPS
We are fortunate in the AAPS to have extraordinary outdoor spaces on or adjacent to our beautiful Ann Arbor campuses. To assist with mask breaks and to help mitigate the spread of the COVID virus, our school teams will be coordinating to provide students with opportunities to learn, eat, and socialize outside during the school day, whenever possible.
AAPS is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our students and staff throughout the entire school day, including lunchtime, when students will not be able to wear masks while eating.
School leaders and support staff are mobilizing efforts to convene lunches outdoors in all school locations when at all possible. School principals will share more specific information as these plans are confirmed. We will need to have patience as our school principals are working vigilantly this week through this coordination process to clarify specifics. We are all committed to this shared goal of outdoor lunch and our teams continue to work to refine the many details involved to ensure safety, order and security, and a consistent school day rhythm to support our students.
- School teams will use outdoor spaces, location and time strategies to achieve as safe a setting as possible for lunch.
- Elementary schools will confirm seating charts to minimize potential close contacts while masks are removed.
- Students will need to wear their masks while going through the serving line.
- Students will put their masks back on promptly when they finish their meal.
- Cafeteria spaces will be regularly and thoroughly cleaned with a sanitizing solution.
- It is recommended that students wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after eating.
Work to Improve Ventilation in AAPS Buildings
AAPS has received several communications recently regarding ventilation in AAPS schools. The health and safety of our students and staff are a top priority at AAPS. Below are updates regarding some of the issues raised, including opening of windows to enhance ventilation, portable air cleaners, DIY filter cubes, CO2 sensors and needlepoint bi-polar ionization. The scientific community has been working at a record-breaking pace since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic on a wide range of solutions. We appreciate all of the expertise in our community offering their assistance in helping mitigate the risk of transmission in our school buildings and throughout our Ann Arbor community.
The District recognized early in the pandemic that ventilation was a critical part of a layered risk mitigation strategy. We have been working with consulting engineers since April of 2020 to improve our Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems across all 35 AAPS buildings,1,000 classrooms, and 3,500,000 square feet. These improvements have included:
· Commissioning and deep cleaning of all ventilation equipment
· Developing a new Enhanced Indoor Air Quality (EIAQ) mode of operation for the HVAC systems that maximizes the rate of ventilation well beyond the normal operating mode
· Increasing the efficacy of the district air filters and increasing the replacement frequency to three times per year
· Conducted a study of each building measuring the effective Air Changes per Hour (ACH) in occupied spaces. The study results are posted on the District’s website here: https://www.a2schools.org/Page/17271
· Installing portable air cleaners in spaces that fall below the recommended 5 ACH level.
These actions have been presented publicly to the Board of Education on several occasions and are captured here in video format:
· Comprehensive Room Ventilation Study (3/17/2021): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SZkW6yARXY
· Readiness of School Buildings for a COVID Informed Return (11/18/20): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnmUxvsoydQ&t=478s
· Physical Properties Update (9/30/20): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMvxBXg60hA
Regarding the specific requests the District has received recently, AAPS is sharing additional updates specifically addressing the opening of windows to enhance ventilation, portable air cleaners, DIY filter cubes, CO2 sensors, and needlepoint bi-polar ionization, more details here.
It is an exciting time of opportunity in the Ann Arbor Public Schools as we come together as members of a community to ‘turn the page’ to the beginning of this brand new 2021-22 school year and the full reopening of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. We also understand that this is a time with many questions and concerns among all, and it will be important to continue to move together, step-by-step, through this back-to-school time. Truly, we are stronger together.
We will continue our regular updates, sharing updated and more detailed information each week, and look forward to seeing all our students on Monday, August 30th, 2021!
Thank you for all your support of our students and staff, of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and our Ann Arbor community.