All eyes are on the Ann Arbor School Board this week. Here’s why.

Ann Arbor Public Schools students hold up signs at a rally to reopen schools at Skyline High School on Feb. 20, 2021.
Ann Arbor Public Schools students hold up signs at a rally to reopen schools at Skyline High School on Feb. 20, 2021. (Meredith Bruckner)

Good morning!

I’m popping in today to take a deep dive into what’s been happening at Ann Arbor Public Schools. The debate over whether or not the district should reopen has reached a boiling point following the School Board’s sudden announcement last week that it will be voting on a plan to stay virtual for the rest of the year.

The district received swift backlash from families who had hoped schools would reopen (which was the original plan). On the flip side, it received support from those who appreciated its effort to finalize some type of plan. There are families who want to continue virtual learning because they’re worried about the risk of transmission with kids back in school buildings.

There are families who want their children back in school because they say the isolation is taking a severe toll on their kids’ mental health or who say virtual learning is not working for their children. These examples only scratch the surface of the many concerns families have toward reopening -- or not, for that matter.

Teachers are also split, with some saying they want to return to face-to-face instruction while others want to remain virtual. Vaccinations for educators have been lagging in Washtenaw County due to low supply, which poses a tough question: Should the district wait for some or all teachers to receive their vaccination before reopening?

Ann Arbor is the only district in Washtenaw County and is one of the few districts in the state that has stayed entirely virtual since the pandemic began.

Here’s a timeline of what’s been happening:

Wednesday, Feb. 17

✋ The Ann Arbor School Board votes 5-2 on a motion to direct Superintendent Swift to recommend that school will remain virtual for all students (except for those with the greatest needs) through the end of the school year. The Board will vote on Swift’s recommendation during this week’s meeting on Wednesday.

Thursday, Feb. 18

💻 Parent group Ann Arbor Reasonable Return starts a GoFundMe to raise funds to start a PAC against AAPS.

Friday, Feb. 19

💵 The group raises its goal of $30,000 in less than 24 hours. Signs with a “well-respected” Michigan firm.

💉 Washtenaw County superintendents issue a statement calling to increase vaccine supplies for teachers in the county’s public school districts.

📝 The Ann Arbor Board of Education releases a statement clarifying the details of their Feb. 17 regular meeting.

Saturday, Feb. 20

🗣 Community members attend a student-led protest at Skyline High School demanding a return to the hybrid learning model that AAPS had initially proposed.

Sunday, Feb. 21

🏫 In a rare move, some city councilmembers and Mayor Taylor send a letter to the School Board, urging them to commit to a date to start hybrid learning.

I’ll be following the situation closely this week. Stay tuned for more updates in Friday’s newsletter.

Until then, enjoy this warm stretch of weather. 🌤

- Meredith (@meredith_A4)

🗨 Have something to share? Write me anytime at mbruckner@wdiv.com.

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