ANN ARBOR – In a Board of Education meeting that lasted nearly six hours on Wednesday, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board approved a resolution to modify its plan to return to in-person learning in favor of finishing the school year virtually.
The Board voted 5-2 in favor of the motion. President Bryan Johnson and Vice President Jessica Kelly voted against the motion.
The resolution, brought forward by trustee Susan Baskett, states:
I move to redirect Dr. Swift to make a recommendation to modify our current return to school plan to allow instruction to remain virtual to the end of the school year with the exception of serving those with the greatest needs (as clarified by our superintendent and school administrators) who would return to school in person by March 22, 2021. The implementation of this modified plan will be presented, discussed and voted upon by Feb 24, 2021.
Returning to schools has been hotly debated ever since school buildings closed in March at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly a year on, the community remains divided.
School Board members struggled to agree on the language of the resolution, making several changes to its wording over the course of the meeting. Trustee Kelly questioned the legality of the motion and urged the vote be postponed by a week.
“I think that the last however many minutes of this perfectly illustrates how uninformed this is,” said Kelly. “It’s so clear how little information and preparation we have to be making this kind of decision tonight and I just want to point out that if this motion passes, and it turns out to not be feasible for whatever reason, then we have to do all this again and ‘whiplash’ would be a gentle word for what would be doing for our community. I guarantee it will generate a loss of trust.”
Trustee Baskett argued that the vote should happen on Wednesday to keep the process moving.
“I want a decision for our community, whether they like it or not, that we’re remaining virtual, so they can go on and plan,” said Baskett. “Let’s stop trying to wait to implement that (plan) and move forward with accepting the fact that we are going to remain virtual until the end of the school year.”
“In general, the majority of trustees felt our parents wanted certainty, and since it’s apparent that teacher vaccines are not coming to Washtenaw County as quickly as expected, or as quickly as any other county in Michigan, the board is now looking to remain virtual for all but learning labs for the students with the greatest needs,” AAPS sent in a statement to A4 via email.
During next Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, the Board will vote on Superintendent Swift’s recommendation to continue in-person learning through the end of the school year for the majority of students.