The following was sent to middle school and high school parents from Jeanice K. Swift, Superintendent of Schools / Ann Arbor Public Schools
Thank you for your partnership and support this year as we have come a long way through this COVID global pandemic. We are ready to move forward together in providing the opportunity for an in-school hybrid learning experience for our secondary students and families who choose this option for the final quarter of this COVID school year.
We have maintained the priority of the health and safety of our students, staff and families throughout this COVID time, and this commitment will continue. We understand that we are not out of this COVID pandemic yet, though there are many hopeful signs as we approach spring.
We are eager to reconnect for in-person learning with our students and families who are ready to choose the hybrid in-school learning option this spring. We are committed to accomplishing this return to school buildings safely while also focusing on our critical mission of teaching, learning and serving our students and families.
Hybrid In-School Learning Option this Spring
We understand that the needs, situations and preferences of students and families fall across a wide spectrum. The purpose of this message is to provide information for parents considering the in-school hybrid learning opportunity this spring.
Please note: as we have stated from the beginning, we will continue to offer a full virtual learning experience through the end of this 2020-21 school year for those students and families who choose to remain in a fully virtual school experience.
Consistent daily teaching and learning will continue for all students; those who choose hybrid and those who choose virtual will continue in their same classes taught by our AAPS teachers and teams.
We have understood from the early stages of this process that the return to school buildings would prove a far more complicated endeavor for adolescents and teens, and there are several reasons for this:
- Many adolescents and teens have adult physiology; research shows they are just as capable of transmitting the coronavirus as adults.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is not currently available to teens.
- The size of AAPS secondary schools adds layers of complexity, with hundreds of students required to gather indoors to attend classes and lunch, even on a hybrid schedule that reduces the numbers of students present each day.
As we continue to monitor the MDHHS weekly report of School-Related COVID-19 Outbreaks occurring in Michigan schools, the data is clear, week after week, that the majority of reported COVID cases transmitted during school occur among secondary students and staff. Approximately 77% of the 226 new COVID cases contracted in 48 Michigan schools last week (March 8th report) occurred at secondary schools. Of particular concern is the lunch period when students must eat unmasked in a congregant setting. Despite the precautions of distancing and other mitigation protocols, there are risks inherent in the secondary school setting. In fact, secondary outbreaks have led to dozens of students from entire lunch periods being quarantined in other districts.
To support a healthy and safe secondary school environment, we will request that parents consider giving permission for regular rapid antigen testing that will occur at school. We will share more detailed information about this opportunity over the coming days.
Hybrid Learning Daily Schedule
As a result, in keeping with our fundamental priority of health and safety throughout this COVID time, we will observe a balanced school day schedule for AAPS students in grades 6-12 during this spring quarter. The schedule will allow for students who choose to participate in a hybrid learning option to experience in-person learning at school, to engage with their peers and teachers during the morning sessions each day and to continue their learning in the afternoons in a virtual experience from home.
Prepared lunches will be provided to all students each school day; more information will be shared during school community meetings next week.
To ensure that all students and parents have the information needed to make the best decision for your student and family, we will host school community meetings next week. You will receive a message from your principal with more details on dates and times. In addition, we will share a link by email so that when ready, parents can make their selection for their students.
We are excited to welcome students back to our school buildings and remain focused on this next step, a solid reopening of our secondary schools this spring. We also look forward to a robust Summer 2021 Learning Session and will share detailed information about summer offerings by the end of March. It is important to note that a full five days of in-person instruction for our students and staff has always been our intention and goal, and we are preparing now for a full AAPS back-to-school launch for Fall 2021.
We will also continue to offer, as a separate delivery, a fully virtual education experience in the AAPS for those students and families who may choose this option during the 2021-2022 school year.
Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools / Ann Arbor Public Schools