Parents enraged by Ann Arbor Public Schools decision to forgo childcare programs for 2021-2022 school year

Petition to AAPS district leadership already signed by more than 800 parents

School desks that are not going to be used are marked out to keep social distance inside a classroom at the secondary school Sevilla la Nueva in Sevilla la Nueva, Madrid, Spain, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. As cases continue to go up and fuel the debate over the return to schools in parents' group messaging chats, Spanish authorities last week issued revised guidelines for the reopening. They included making mandatory masks for students of age six or older, daily body temperature checks, hand-washing at least five times per day and frequent ventilation of classrooms. But many parents say that funding is insufficient to hire more teachers and that some schools just don't have additional space. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas) (Andrea Comas, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) will not offer before-and-after-school childcare programs for school age students during the 2021-2022 school year.

The announcement was made by AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice K. Swift during the district’s Board of Education community forum on May 13.

“We understand that that is an adjustment for our families,” Dr. Swift said after breaking the news.

In reaction, more than 800 parents have signed a petition to AAPS leadership calling for the school district to reconsider and resume the programs.

Parents rely on the district to provide safe and affordable childcare programs, the letter states. For many, their ability to work and be financially stable is possible due to the care offered.

“The district’s decision to not to provide this care after returning to full-time in-person education will cause serious financial and professional disruptions to countless families in our community,” it says.

It counters the school district’s reasons for stopping the programs and says “the consequences of this decision will be extremely inequitable.” It states that the decision impacts mothers and families of color disproportionately, who may either have to bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities or not have flexible work schedules.

“This is unconscionable, especially after the economic losses that women and families of color have suffered during the pandemic. Instead of increasing equity, the district’s decision not to offer care will only widen the disparities that the pandemic has magnified,” the petition says.

In previous years, AAPS care programs have used a large group model. During the May 13 meeting, Dr. Swift said the programs would have to be redesigned to align with AAPS equity and the mission of Rec & Ed.

The parental petition acknowledges that reworking programs to avoid large group sizes does take some time but not a full year. It states that daycares within the district have already made adjustments successfully with the help of COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

“There is no reason why before and after care programs cannot do the same -- especially in the fall, when activities can be outdoors,” the letter states.

“Furthermore, once vaccines for children become available -- likely during the 2021-2022 school year -- the need to restructure these programs will become far less pressing. There are ways to provide safe before and after care in the interim.”

Staffing shortages were also given as a rationale for the cancelation of the care programs. To this, the letter offers up several short-term solutions for the school district including:

  • “Providing incentives and bonuses for recruiting before and after care staff
  • Contracting with outside organizations to run before and after care programs, in the same way that Community Day Care runs the before and after care programs at Lawton and Burns Park Elementary Schools
  • Partnering with the education programs at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, in the same way that Ypsilanti Community Schools partners with EMU for aftercare
  • If absolutely necessary, limiting before and after care to children who need it most (e.g., Y5-3rd grade, those who qualify for free or reduced lunch) to reduce the number of students and staff required to run the programs and to address the challenges around group size”

The petition asks for leadership to share what efforts have already been made by the district in order to provide the care programs next year, and that parents be included in efforts to create solutions.

“In sum, we urge you to resume before and after care programs for the 2021-2022 school year for the sake of the countless working families in the district who rely on these programs for their financial and professional stability. As a demonstration of a true commitment to equity, we urge you to act quickly for the sake of women and families of color.”

See the full petition letter here.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.