From Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools
We are excited to welcome all our students to return to in-person school on August 30, 2021, in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. In case you are in a rush, here are the highlights of this COVID-19 Health and Safety update; the complete message follows.
Highlights – COVID Health and Safety Information
•Our work together for this school year is to keep our schools open by maintaining a healthy and safe school environment for both students and staff.
•With all students in schools full-time, AAPS will not always be able to maintain three feet of social distancing. Grouping students in cohorts is not possible at the middle and high school levels.
•This increases the importance of the other mitigation measures; vaccination for all who are eligible, universal mask-wearing, staying home when sick, ventilation, cleaning and testing.
•AAPS will work to provide the maximum space possible for students at lunchtime as individual schools allow, yet will not always achieve three feet of distance while students are eating.
•Parents play an important role by getting eligible students vaccinated, keeping children home when sick, limiting potential exposure to COVID outside of school and making sure children are up-to-date on required immunizations.
•AAPS offers virtual options for families uncomfortable with sending children to school in-person at this time at a2schools.org/a2village
Full Message – Back-to-School, 2021 COVID Health and Safety Information
In just a few days, we are reopening our schools fully, and we continue our work to ensure our schools remain open for full, uninterrupted, in-person learning – for all our students – during this 2021-2022 school year.
As we have from the beginning of this pandemic, we will continue to hold the health and safety of our students and staff, parents and community as our top priority.
We will practice a multi-layered approach to COVID mitigation strategies for health and safety. There are steps we can all take to do our part to ensure that our schools remain healthy and safe places for our students and staff, parents, families and community this school year.
In this second in our AAPS series of back-to-school information sessions, our focus today is on COVID Health & Safety Guidelines for Fall 2021.
In last week’s summer update, we shared the importance of every member of our Ann Arbor community 12 years and above to prioritize getting the COVID vaccine, as this is the most powerful tool we have available to us against the spread of COVID-19.
In keeping with recent recommendations of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Washtenaw County Health Department, we will require masks indoors inside our AAPS school campuses for all students, staff and visitors.
A simple step – wearing our masks while indoors – provides another layer of protection to improve overall health and safety and mitigates the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and community this fall.
While with a full reopening of schools, we will not be able to achieve the social distance strategy, we will focus our efforts on the steps we can take to protect ourselves and each other in creating a healthy and safe environment at school.
Our goal for this school year is to keep students in school while maintaining health and safety for both students and staff. Today, we are sharing the district’s strategy to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission and how you can help.
The situation with COVID-19, and what is known about the disease and its variants, continues to evolve. We’re committed to following the guidance of public health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Washtenaw County Health Department.
These public health authorities continue to recommend that schools layer prevention strategies such as vaccination, masking and physical distancing to reduce the risk of COVID transmission at school. This graphic from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows how the virus may pass through one layer of defense but be stopped by another.
In the spring, we used the Super Six mitigation strategies while we were in hybrid learning mode. These six strategies, layered together, were effective in stopping most potential transmission in our classrooms.
This fall, we’re excited to welcome back all students, full-time, in person. We understand that being in person is critical for students’ well-being and learning. Our teachers and other building staff will be utilizing every classroom space for teaching and learning, including specials classrooms.
With the full use of every building throughout the day, the following changes to the Super Six apply:
- Physical distancing of three or more feet will not always be feasible
- Cohorting students into smaller groups who do not mix is not possible at the middle and high school levels.
- At the elementary level, cohorting will be used to the extent possible. Special care will be taken at mealtimes to keep students distanced while eating, yet we won’t always be able to achieve three feet of distance.
- Without these two layers of physical distancing and strict cohorting, the other layers of prevention are even more important:
- Vaccination for all who are eligible
- Universal indoor masking
- Public health protocols such as staying home when sick
- Improved classroom and school ventilation
- Cleaning and disinfecting
- New testing protocols
Parents, YOU have an essential role in keeping your students and school communities as safe as possible. Here are four things you can do:
- If you haven’t already done so, get vaccinated and ensure everyone 12 and older in your household is vaccinated. For elementary students who do not have access to the vaccine yet, having parents and older siblings who are vaccinated protects them from exposure at home.
- Keep your students home from school when they are sick. Seek testing if they have symptoms or if anyone in the household has symptoms.
- Be careful outside of school. Avoid or limit your time indoors with anyone who is unvaccinated. When in doubt, wear a mask.
- Make sure your students are up-to-date with all required childhood immunizations so that we can keep other communicable diseases out of our classrooms.
Working together, we can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in AAPS classrooms and enjoy a successful school year.
In maintaining our vigilance on these key strategies, including vaccination, universal masking indoors and the use of testing, we can all feel more comfortable and confident that we are each doing our part to keep our schools healthy and safe, particularly for children under age 12 who are not yet able to receive the vaccination.
At the same time, it is also important for our parents, who may have concerns about their children participating in in-school classes this fall, to consider quality AAPS virtual options that will continue to be available this year. Parents may learn more about virtual learning opportunities at: a2schools.org/a2village
It is an exciting time of opportunity in the Ann Arbor Public Schools as we come together as a community to ‘turn the page’ to the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year and the full reopening of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
Welcoming our students, teachers, support staff and leaders as they reconnect within the in-person, in-school class setting represents a tremendous step forward from this COVID time. Truly, we are stronger together, and we will be vigilant together in carrying out the steps for a healthy and safe school environment.
We will continue our weekly updates throughout August, sharing more detailed information each week, and look forward to seeing all our students on Monday, August 30th, 2021!
Thank you for your support of our 18,000 students, of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and your partnership in our Ann Arbor community.