ANN ARBOR – Local parent Nick Bagley has penned an open letter to the Michigan legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer calling for legislation that would ensure children return to school full time this fall.
The University of Michigan law professor said he has lost trust in the Ann Arbor Board of Education after its members announced a vote to keep school virtual for the rest of the year, and then walked back on that plan a week later.
“I think a lot of parents are feeling kind of hopeless about this school year,” said Bagley. “Let’s make sure that next fall we don’t get the same kind of rerun of excuse after excuse being offered of not getting kids back into the classroom. We’re trying to get in front of it before it becomes a flashpoint issue.”
The open letter has more than 1,000 signatures from parents around the state, with the majority in Ann Arbor.
“We are worried that some school districts, if given the option, may refuse to provide five-days-a-week, in-person learning in the fall, long after every teacher has had a chance to receive the vaccine,” reads the letter. “We fear too that some districts may substitute ‘hybrid’ classrooms for face-to-face instruction, seriously degrading the quality of the educational experience.”
The letter states it supports the continuation of virtual instruction for families who choose to stay home.
Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift has publicly said that school will be back full time in the fall.
“We are excited to welcome students back to our school buildings and remain focused on this next step, a solid reopening of our secondary schools this spring,” Swift said in a statement shared with A4. “We also look forward to a robust Summer 2021 Learning Session and will share detailed information about summer offerings by the end of March.
“It is important to note that a full five days of in-person instruction for our students and staff has always been our intention and goal, and we are preparing now for a full AAPS back-to-school launch for Fall 2021.”
Bagley said statements are not enough to keep him reassured.
“The issue is whether we can trust that commitment,” Bagley said. “They’ve shredded the trust they had in the community.”
He criticized the state’s decision to leave school openings during the pandemic up to the districts.
“If we could shine a light on the role that the legislature and governor play in setting the ground rules for what districts can or cannot do next year, it might give a sense of responsibility,” said Bagley.
“Local school boards that don’t have public health expertise and have shown themselves not to be especially sensitive to the needs of students and their parents should not be making the call anymore.”
Ann Arbor is one of the last remaining districts in the state to reopen schools during the pandemic. AAPS schools have been closed since March 2020 and will start welcoming students back into buildings on March 25 as part of a phased hybrid learning plan.