‘We do not feel safe:’ Ann Arbor teachers voice concerns for in-person school

Ann Arbor Education Association lays out return to school concerns


ANN ARBOR, Mich. – As students, parents, teachers and school administrators get ready for the upcoming school year, many are concerned about the safety of returning to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among those most concerned are Ann Arbor Public School teachers, who feel unsafe about returning to their classrooms in the fall.

Through a social media post on Tuesday, July 14, the Ann Arbor Education Association detailed its concerns and urged the school district to continue with remote learning.

The teachers union outlined issues like physical safety of staff and students, cleaning and sanitizing practices, mask compliance, substitute teachers, access to personal protective equipment and social distancing. 

The post said that while educators are worried for student academic and social development, they are “extremely concerned” about the health of students and the community if schools reopened with in-person classes. 

“While educators generally have a great capacity to model and shape student behavior in constructive and profound ways, we also do not believe that mask-wearing and social distancing alone will work to prevent outbreaks in schools so long as COVID is spreading in a school community and the state and federal government have neglected to provide adequate emergency funding to support local school districts in educating students during the COVID pandemic…,”the post said.

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The wide-ranging post noted efforts made by local legislators and officials in advocating for resources but outlined a list of concerns relating to the implementation of state guidelines.

Some of those concerns include questions about high-risk staff and students, how students will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, classroom cleaning, spaces for students to eat lunch or hold recess, guarantees for PPE for staff and students, and the enforcement of appropriate social distancing rules in and out of classrooms.

“In summary, we are saying we do not feel safe and that there need to be more concrete protections, comprehensive protocols, and more thorough planning in place for students and for staff,” the post said.

In addition to member concerns, the AAEA’s post asked for AAPS bond money to be allocated to upgrade HVAC systems for air ventilation and temporary handwashing stations with contactless hand drying and soap.

The teachers union stated that it would consider returning to in-person learning after 14 days of no new COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County and asks the district to create a legal risk assessment addressing the AAEA’s concerns.

In response to the Tuesday post, Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift stated that the district’s top priority is the “health and safety of our students and teachers, staff and leaders, families and community.”

Swift said that the district shares the concerns of teachers, staff, leaders, parents and community members and has been working with public health experts over the summer to prepare for in-person classes while monitoring infection rates. 

“We continue to work closely with our employee group leaders, parents and community, and we know as we have in prior situations, we will make responsible decisions guided by facts; we will not be reckless,” Swift said.

“We know we work best when we work together with our collective focus on the critical mission of serving our children well in the Ann Arbor community.”

The post by the Ann Arbor Education Association also calls on the Michigan legislature and Congress to “refuse the devil’s bargain that they have been faced with” and presents a series of actions including addressing child care problems for working parents, guaranteeing funding to schools, suspending standardized tests and guaranteeing workplace protections.

Read the full post here:

July 14, 2020 To the Ann Arbor Public Schools community, Since school ended on June 12, the discussion around how to...

Posted by Ann Arbor Education Association on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.