Ann Arbor parents launch GoFundMe to start PAC as school district mulls staying virtual

Parents and children hold signs at a rally calling to reopen Ann Arbor Public Schools in downtown Ann Arbor on Jan. 30, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – A GoFundMe organized by parent group Ann Arbor Reasonable Return has surpassed its $30,000 goal in under 24 hours.

As of late Friday morning, the group has raised $31,630 to establish a political action committee in the wake of the School Board’s sudden change of plans during its Wednesday meeting to vote next week on staying virtual for the remainder of the school year.

“Ann Arbor Reasonable Return is exploring all options to get relief for families in the Ann Arbor Public Schools who have been in virtual only learning since March 13, 2020,” reads the GoFundMe page. “We are raising funds for establishing a political action committee (PAC) that can then take steps like retain professional legal and lobbying counsel. Funds raised here will be moved to the PAC once established.

“Our fundraising goal is based on an official proposal from the law firm that the PAC would retain (a firm that is well-respected in the State of Michigan).”

Ann Arbor is the only district in Washtenaw County and one of the few remaining districts in the state to only offer virtual learning for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The group launched the fundraiser a day after a messy Board of Education meeting that lasted over five hours and saw trustees debate on rushing a decision to keep school virtual when, previously, the district announced plans to start bringing back students to school buildings in phases starting with the youngest and those with the greatest needs next month.

According to the Board of Education, if they vote to keep school virtual, children with the greatest needs will be able to return to buildings at the end of March.

Co-founder of Ann Arbor Reasonable Return Lena Kauffman said that the group is currently in the process of signing with the firm.

“We hope to be able to share more details very shortly,” said Kauffman. “We are just so grateful and humbled by the support of the community. Thank you to Emmy, Leo, Isaac and other children who donated $5 or $6 dollars to the effort. Every dollar counts.

“On a bigger picture, there are thousands of kids across Ann Arbor Public Schools and many, many of them thought that they were going back to school by March 1 because their Governor said they were returning to school by March 1.”

Kauffman said she has been hearing from parents that they don’t know what to tell their children who had been so eager to return to class after nearly a year of virtual learning. Ultimately, she hopes the GoFundMe sends a clear message to children hoping to return.

“This fundraiser is incredible because we as parents can point to this and say, ‘Look kids, there’s a lot more people in the community than the people who just sit on the School Board and they really, really care about you.’ For that alone, we’re so grateful for the community that we can show the kids that people care.”

Ann Arbor Reasonable Return held a rally downtown on Jan. 30 calling for schools to reopen. On Feb. 8, hundreds of local physicians and psychologists signed an open letter and petition to the district, citing data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anthony Fauci and others that say it is safe to return to in-person learning.

For its part, Ann Arbor Public Schools has maintained that it wants to see low community cases of COVID-19, the vaccination of teachers and comprehensive antigen testing in place before it can return to a hybrid model.

“The health and safety of our staff and students, parents and community remain paramount; this commitment will not change,” wrote AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift in her latest community update on Jan. 29.

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.