From Jeanice K. Swift, Ann Arbor Superintendent of Schools
April 6, 2021
I am sharing this message today as an update for AAPS students, families and staff as a result of the escalating COVID situation currently occurring in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and across Michigan. We take this situation very seriously and continue to monitor the COVID case numbers closely each day in partnership with the Washtenaw County Health Department and other public health experts.
We will continue to hold the health and safety of our students and staff, families and community as our top priority in all the decisions we make, as we have worked to do throughout this COVID pandemic. This priority of health and safety will not change.
Over previous weeks, a rapid and significant rise in the level of COVID cases in Washtenaw County continues. The number of new cases, currently at 246.3 per million, places Washtenaw County again at Level E, the highest risk category according to the MI Safe Start Map, and at “High” transmission within the CDC risk levels for operating schools. At this time, concern about potential post-spring break impact, as well as an increased prevalence of COVID infection rates among younger individuals, present added concern.
As detailed in the current CDC guidance for public schools, schools in areas experiencing ‘rapid or persistent rises in COVID-19 case rates,’ school leaders may amend reopening of schools or even close schools temporarily until levels of community transmission stabilize.
CDC K12 guidance also details that ‘lower susceptibility and incidence among younger children compared to teenagers suggest that younger students are likely to have less risk of in-school transmission due to in-person learning than older students (middle schools and high schools).’
As a result of the current rise in COVID cases and in keeping with current CDC guidance, including a priority for the youngest students, we will continue the spring reopening of schools with the following adjustments in the return to in-school hybrid learning timeline:
- Students in self-contained, preschool, Y5, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd-grade classrooms, and small groups currently meeting in person who have chosen hybrid, in-school learning will continue in current hybrid school schedule,
- 3rd-grade students who choose hybrid, in-school learning – return April 12th, as planned,
- 4th & 5th-grade students who choose hybrid, in-school learning – return April 19th, and
- Middle and high school students who choose hybrid, in-school learning – return April 26th.
In our schools and across our community, we must ensure we all follow the COVID mitigation strategies that we know well by now. We will continue strictly practicing the wearing of masks, social distancing and personal hand hygiene in our AAPS classrooms and across our schools. Members of our school communities should also be sure to stay home and get tested if they are symptomatic or exposed to a case of COVID-19.
We hope in the coming days of April to achieve stabilization and a decrease in COVID cases and to vigorously continue the vaccination process among all in our community so that we can safely continue with the spring AAPS reopening plan.
To ensure additional layers of protection in this school reopening process, over the coming days, we will update information about rapid antigen testing available for AAPS students and staff as well as encourage parents of students 16 and older, and everyone, to receive the COVID vaccination as soon as you are able to do so.
As we move through this spring, we strongly encourage parents with concerns about returning to in-person school, including families of students who are at increased risk of severe illness, to continue to take advantage of the virtual learning opportunity. We understand that our AAPS families fall along a wide continuum of comfort, needs and preferences in choosing the best plan for their children during this spring school quarter. These circumstances may change based on COVID developments. Our AAPS spring return to in-school learning plan is designed so ALL parents have the option to choose for their student(s) to remain virtual at any time and for the remainder of the school year.
We appreciate all your work and partnership in support of our students as we navigate this COVID school year. We will continue to monitor the evolving COVID situation each day during the coming weeks and remain in close communication with our families, staff and community.