ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift convened a meeting with members of the newly-created AAPS COVID-19 Task Force on Wednesday evening after canceling the scheduled Board of Education meeting.
The update was originally going to be livestreamed at 7 p.m., but with so many viewers trying to tune in, the system ran into technical difficulties and AAPS taped and released the video later in the evening.
In the video address, school officials provided updates on the latest practices surrounding coronavirus spread prevention within the school system and addressed the burning question that parents and students have been asking since Michigan’s first cases were confirmed: Will schools close?
While Swift said schools will remain open for now, she acknowledged that the situation is rapidly evolving and that AAPS families should be prepared for closures should the situation require such measures.
“We have far more questions this evening than answers," Swift said. “We do know that as a school district, we are uniquely situated and we understand that we have both a role in the community and a responsibility to our students, our staff, our parents and our community to do our part as a school system to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease.”
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Swift revealed that AAPS is working with disease experts and with public health authorities on a daily basis. She said her team is following CDC, state and federal recommendations and will make the decision to close schools or cancel school events if necessary.
“We do understand that working parents have concerns about child care and I want to reiterate to our board and to our community: Those are concerns we also share,” said Swift.
“We understand that in any school closing decision, we balance the tensions of the social good that schools do everyday in the lives of children, in their families, in our community. And yet, at this point in time, we balance that social good with the significant reality of this more critical phase and the critical nature of the public health crisis that is facing us.”
Assistant Superintendent Dawn Linden said the district’s goal is to continue education in the event of a closure.
“In the event of a closure, our goal is to work to continue instruction and education,” said Linden.
According to Linden, AAPS will take the following into consideration when deciding to close:
- Timing for most effective prevention of disease spread
- Protecting students and staff with underlying medical conditions that place them at higher risk for severe consequences
- Continuity of educational services
- Continuity of services such as school meals
Access to school meals will remain a priority for the district, said Swift.
“I want to be clear that here in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we understand that one in four students will arrive to our schools everyday and count on that school lunch," said Swift. "For some of the students, that may be the only warm meal that they get.”
AAPS Health Officer and Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Community Division, Jenna Bacolor, said that schools have intensified cleaning protocols for both buildings and buses, have clarified expectations for all people entering school buildings who have recently visited a CDC Level 3 country and have promoted the practice of daily prevention habits like washing hands for 20 seconds, covering coughs and practicing social distancing.
Parents and members of the AAPS community will be alerted to school closures via the messaging system, the superintendent’s personal Twitter account and other AAPS channels.
At the end of the session, Superintendent Swift tearfully said: “I just want to share with the Ann Arbor Public Schools community, we take very seriously our responsibility to keep children safe. These are hard times and I know what we do in the Ann Arbor community during challenging times. We look out for our neighbor. We make sure that folks have food and that they’re able to be at home safely.
“We won’t always agree on decisions, but we will always agree on the priority of our children and our staff and our families and our community, their health and safety.”
For more information, visit the AAPS coronavirus updates page.