A group of Ann Arbor parents, medical professionals, and community members are planning a rally for this weekend to show their support for getting students back into the classroom during the ongoing pandemic. WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with group member and concerned parent Lena Kauffman about their continuing efforts to get students back in the classroom soon.
Community Rally for Safe Return to Voluntary, Hybrid In-Person Schooling
Saturday, Jan. 30, 2020 — noon — Downtown Post Office
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Parents, medical professionals and community members will rally at noon on January 30th at the Ann Arbor Downtown Post Office (5th and Liberty) in support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s goal of re-opening schools to in-person learning by March 1. Led by Ann Arbor Reasonable Return, a grassroots advocacy group, the community is urging Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) to follow state guidance and finally offer the safe in-person option they advertised to the community at the start of the year.
Ann Arbor Public Schools is alone in Washtenaw County in not having set a date to return to in-person learning, despite being one of the best-resourced districts in the state with a $1 billion facilities bond and having a plan in place for hybrid learning since last summer. The district reports that it has purchased a 2-month supply of PPE and made extensive facilities improvements beyond what other public school districts can offer, including touchless doors and faucets, upgraded HVAC, sanitizer stations, custom social-distancing stickers and more. Yet the doors of its 31 public school buildings remain closed even to the youngest learners and students with special needs (IEP and 504 plans).
“Asking a leading district like AAPS to simply offer its own limited hybrid plan in time to meet the Governor’s goal is really asking very little,” said Jesse Kauffman, co-founder of the Ann Arbor Reasonable Return parent organization. “As Governor Whitmer’s office noted in releasing its rationale for reopening schools ‘We must begin to pivot our thinking from “Should schools be open?” to “Schools must be open. How can we do it safely?’”
The district has already been petitioned by over 500 parents, and has received expert recommendations in a letter from more than 130 local doctors and pediatric nurses. It also has excellent updated guidance on school reopening from the Michigan Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Harvard Global Health Institute/Brown University School of Public Health. Plus, the governor’s MI COVID Recovery Plan will allocate a portion of the nearly $1.7 billion in funding received through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) to help districts like AAPS meet the Governor’s goal of providing every student and family with a choice of in-person learning by March 1.
Ann Arbor Reasonable Return supports teachers and public schools. The organization is deeply concerned about the enrollment decline that has happened as families with the means to do so have left the district because it is not offering in-school learning, and wants to support the district and its teachers in a safe return to the classroom. Rally attendees are encouraged to bring positive signs and extra PPE for teachers.
For more information, please visit a2reasonablereturn.org/rally.
In response to the planned rally, WEMU reached out to Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift, who issued the following comment:
"The goal of the Ann Arbor Public Schools remains to offer the opportunity for students to begin an in-school hybrid learning model as soon as possible in the safest way possible. Clearly, the continued Level E, ‘High Risk’ COVID status of Washtenaw County according to the MI Safe Start Map, the slower vaccination process caused by a lack of vaccine, alongside the confirmation of the more contagious B.1.1.7. variant in Ann Arbor are all concerns that directly inform the timeline of transitioning to offer a hybrid in-person learning experience."
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