Ann Arbor School Board approves phased hybrid learning plan starting March 25

Skyline High School in Ann Arbor. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – The Ann Arbor Board of Education voted 6-1 on Wednesday to approve a recommendation brought forward by Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift to transition to an in-person hybrid learning model starting March 25.

Trustee Ernesto Querijero abstained from the vote because he said the Board was in violation of its bylaws for changing the time of the meeting last minute and said he will vote tonight after public comment is heard during its regular 7 p.m. meeting.

The move was a reversal of last week’s motion to direct Swift to recommend this week that school remain virtual for the majority of students for the rest of the year.

The Board received substantial backlash from parents who want their children back in school, which prompted an apology from the Board for any confusion caused by its Feb. 17 meeting.

“I regret and apologize for the confusion our conversation on Wednesday provided in our community,” trustee Rebecca Lazarus said during Wednesday’s Zoom meeting attended by approximately 750 community members. “I truly believe that we’re all on the same side. This is a game-changer that we will be able to provide options for families.”

During the noon meeting, which lasted just under an hour, Superintendent Swift said the recommendation to transition to a hybrid learning model was based upon the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, a new countywide effort to vaccinate local teachers and the recent approval from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to conduct regular rapid testing of students and staff once they return to school buildings.

“Unfolding developments as late as yesterday afternoon impacted this particular decision,” she said.

According to the proposal, students will return in phases, starting with the youngest children. Here’s the timeline:

Stage 1: March 25

  • PK-12 students in self-contained classroom placements
  • Preschool students
  • Young fives students
  • Kindergarten students
  • Small groups - students grades 6-12

Stage 2: April 5

  • First and second grade students

Stage 3: April 12

  • Third, fourth and fifth grade students

Stage 4: Beginning April 12

  • Begin phased return of students grades 6-12

At the onset of her proposal, Swift said that the return to classrooms is contingent upon every educator receiving an invitation to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Read: Ann Arbor-area teachers to receive COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday

“We have to provide a quality learning environment for students and part of that is providing our teachers with an environment where they feel safe ... by their definition, not by someone else’s definition,” said Board President Bryan Johnson.

Swift reiterated AAPS’ original hybrid plan that students will attend school two days per week in order to achieve proper physical distancing in school buildings:

The hybrid learning plan involves the assignment of students to an A or B cohort group. Students attend school two days per week, Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday; Wednesdays will remain a virtual, asynchronous day.

According to its Feb. 17 motion, the School Board proposed that students with the greatest needs return to school buildings on March 22. It is unclear at this time whether March 22 remains the return date for this group.

Families who wish to remain virtual will have the choice to do so, Swift said. This includes the 2021-2022 school year.

Ann Arbor Public Schools have been closed since March 16, 2020. It is the only school district in Washtenaw County and one of the few remaining districts in the state that has not offered an in-person learning option since the beginning of the pandemic.

The School Board will reconvene its regular meeting Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.

Ann Arbor Public Schools district reveals plans for in-person learning option

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.