Superintendent Jeanice Swift: “We continue to safely prioritize in-school learning for our students”

Weekly Update From Jeanice K. Swift, Superintendent of Schools

Hello AAPS Students and Parents, Teachers, Staff and Community,

As we prepare for winter break and look ahead to the new year, we are grateful for the efforts and sacrifices of all in our AAPS community, our students, teachers, staff and leaders, parents, families and community. Our AAPS students and team consistently carry out impressive work at school each day in serving our children well, and we all benefit from the support of our parents and an engaged Ann Arbor community.

We continue to safely prioritize in-school learning for our students during this school year. Together, as a result of this diligent team effort, our students and staff have continued to learn and grow together in our classrooms and schools through this extraordinary fall – 71 of 75 school days together in the AAPS – over these sixteen weeks since the school year began on August 30th.

During the coming days, obtaining vaccinations and boosters for as many individuals as possible and practicing COVID-19 health precautions during winter break will support our strong and healthy continuance of in-school learning for our students and staff through this winter.

Tools and Supports to Support our Schools and Community This Winter

As winter officially approaches, we have many excellent tools in place that were not available a year ago or even at the beginning of this school year. Despite continuing high levels of community COVID-19 transmission, because of our AAPS COVID Response Team and all of our work together to effectively deploy the Super Six mitigation strategies, we are strongly positioned to continue in person teaching and learning through this winter.

In addition to our Super 6 and Covid Preparedness and Response Plan we have the following:

  • A highly-vaccinated AAPS staff, with weekly testing required of those not yet fully vaccinated
  • Vaccines readily available for students 5 years old and above,  

The district has supported vaccination of the 5-11 age group with six school-based vaccination clinics so far. Along with MDHHS, we will host another vaccination clinic on Tues., Jan. 4 at Pioneer High School.  

  • Boosters readily available for all adults,

We strongly urge all who are eligible to receive boosters.

  • Consistent implementation of the AAPS Super Six mitigation strategies 

Including continued universal masking, a proven, research-based strategy for reducing risk of school transmission and a Washtenaw County Health Department order for all school districts in the county.

  • Maintenance of improved indoor ventilation across all schools and when feasible, use of outdoor spaces on our campuses,
  • Fully developed case response processes,

including notification and contact tracing, deployed consistently across our schools, and

  • Responsive rapid antigen testing 

Pop-up antigen testing events continue at several schools this week, including schools with multiple cases, or as a ‘Test to Stay’ option in special circumstances, including for students whose parents face barriers to accessing tests. We continue to conduct as much in-school testing from dedicated and over-burdened health staff as possible, while also attending to student health plans and other student health priorities; we will share more information about testing over the coming weeks.

Vaccination Efforts and Next Steps

Among all we can do, we know vaccination continues to provide the best protection against getting COVID-19, spreading it, and experiencing severe symptoms or hospitalization.

Now that vaccines are widely available for children ages 5+ and boosters are approved for everyone aged 16+, we urge everyone to get vaccinated and boosted during winter break if you are eligible and have not yet done so. Learn more about local vaccination opportunities here or talk with your primary care doctor, pediatrician, pharmacist, or the Health Department.

We appreciate the efforts of so many in our community, and are excited to share that Washtenaw County leads the state in vaccinations for 5-11-year-olds, currently at a 46% vaccination rate, and 12-15-year-olds at 73%. Many 16-17 year olds are now obtaining boosters, also. We are optimistic that vaccination rates will continue increasing, which also means fewer interruptions to in-person learning. It is important to remember that fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts do not need to be quarantined if they are not symptomatic.

As we move into 2022, with vaccines widely available for all five years and above, we anticipate changes to school COVID guidance may occur, and we will work with the Health Department to adjust isolation and quarantine guidance or other COVID-19 precautions as more children and their families are protected from the worst COVID-19 outcomes, thanks to vaccination.

I want to share special gratitude for everyone on our team and in our AAPS community. Thank you for your support and partnership. We appreciate all the hard work in support of our students and staff; we are stronger when we work together.

We Want to Hear Your Thoughts

We want to hear your thoughts and perspectives from your experience so far this school year, to understand priorities you see as we move forward together.  As we plan and prepare for our next steps in 2022, and as we did in May 2021, we are offering a Thoughtexchange inquiry to collect your feedback.

The Thoughtexchange will be hosted through January and you should have received an invitation by separate email to participate. Of course, we will repeat the invitation over the coming weeks as we approach the wrap up of the first semester at the end of January.

Weekly COVID-19 Update

Our priority of health and safety and our work to maintain school environments as low risk as possible for COVID-19 transmission continues as we face this current fall COVID-19 surge.

The weekly AAPS COVID-19 Case Dashboard, updated today, reports 63 cases with direct impact in 24 schools and district locations. Unfortunately, our AAPS experience reflects the trend in continuing high case rates for Washtenaw County and Michigan.

AAPS Wishes Everyone a Peaceful, Safe, and Healthy Winter Break

I am delighted to share some joys of this winter season in the AAPS and our very best wishes for this upcoming winter break

Special thanks to Adam, Pittsfield Y5 Student from Ms. Avenall’s art class, and Rachel, King 1st grade student from Ms. Fineberg’s art class for the beautiful winter inspired artwork included in this message.

As we enter this winter break, we are also sharing an AAPS Winter Break video  featuring excerpts from winter concert musical performances and scenes of the everyday student joy, learning and growth occurring across our Ann Arbor Public Schools classrooms.

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

Wishing you peace and health during this winter break season,

Jeanice K. Swift

Superintendent of Schools