Parent group to rally for safe return to schools in Ann Arbor Saturday

A sign for Ann Arbor Reasonable Return is posted next to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Dec. 9, 2020. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBORAnn Arbor Reasonable Return, a grassroots organization founded by local parents, will be holding a rally on Saturday in downtown Ann Arbor in support of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal to reopen schools by March 1.

The group, which also goes by A2R2, is made up of parents and medical professionals. The rally will begin at noon at the Ann Arbor Post Office at 200 E. Liberty St.

“The community is urging Ann Arbor Public Schools to follow state guidance and finally offer the safe in-person option they advertised to the community at the start of the year,” read a press release. “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.”

According to a Jan. 8 message from AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, crews have been actively deep cleaning all 35 school buildings, flushing water systems, replacing and resetting HVAC systems, installing touchless restroom fixtures and restructuring school campuses to ensure safe social distancing in preparations to reopen.

She also announced that the district has acquired enough PPE for its staff. However, Swift stressed that reopening will depend upon a low number of COVID cases in the community, rapid antigen testing and the vaccination of teachers against the virus.

More than 500 parents have already petitioned the district, and the advocacy group presented a letter from more than 130 area doctors and pediatric nurses recommending a safe return to in-person learning.

“There is an assumption in Ann Arbor that all children can stay home with a family member during the day and work on their computers and have a caring adult there who can help them,” said A2R2 co-founder Lena Kauffman. “That’s not reality. We know that there are children who are home alone during part of the day or all of the day. There’s not a grownup there who can help them log back in if they get kicked out of a Zoom call.”

While Kauffman said that parents of young children and children with special needs were the first groups to reach out to A2R2, parents of high schoolers have increasingly been raising the alarm.

“Around Christmas, we got stories that, ‘My high schooler no longer goes to class,” said Kauffman. “‘They’re in their room all the time. They’re texting with friends, they’re depressed and crying all the time.’

“It was eye opening to us. A lot of the high school kids are doing their own online learning and are also the teacher assistants who are helping younger children.”

All community members are welcome to attend the rally and are asked to bring positive signs. Donation of PPE for teachers at the event is also encouraged.

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.