Social Distancing While Schools are Closed
Ann Arbor Public Schools COVID-19 Update
March 16, 2020Ann Arbor Public Schools and all schools in Michigan have taken the extraordinary step of shutting down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The community prevention strategy of closing schools will be most effective if everyone who possibly can practice social distancing actually does their part. In his article “This is Not a Snow Day,” Dr. Asaf Bitton urges everyone to “make daily choices to stay away from each other as much as possible.” By doing so, we have a better chance to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent our health systems from becoming overwhelmed with sick people.
To highlight the severity of the current situation, Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed an Executive Order closing all theaters, bars, and casinos, and limiting restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders. Additionally all indoor and outdoor performance venues, gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, and spas. At this time, these Executive Order restrictions will remain in place until Monday, March 30th at 11:59 PM.
Since daytime social distancing is challenging for parents whose work schedules do not allow them to stay home, it’s doubly important for those who are able to have an adult at home with their children to practice social distancing.
What exactly is social distancing?
It’s simple -- make sure there are about 6 feet between you and other people. With your family and others, you live with, this doesn’t apply. Everyone else? Think about keeping the length of a sofa between yourself and them.
General Tips for Social Distancing from the Washtenaw County Health Department:
- Get outdoors as much as possible. Avoid being indoors with people other than the people you live with.
- Don’t spend time with people who have COVID-19 symptoms or other symptoms of illness.
- People aged 60 and over, and those with underlying health conditions, should avoid groups of any size.
- Isolate yourself and call your health care provider if you become ill.
Social Distancing For Shared Child Care Situations
We understand that some AAPS families are setting up shared child care to support parents who must work. The New York Times article “What Are the Rules for Play Dates During the Coronavirus Crisis?” offers specific advice for parents caring for other children.
- Avoid contact between children and older family members.
- Limit the number of children together as much as possible.
- Make sure children wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer when they enter the group space, during the time together, and before eating.
- Set ground rules with other parents so they do not bring children with cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms.
- Clean the play space and toys before and after they are touched.
- Have a separate space designated for any child who becomes ill.
- Consider organizing around an outdoor activity, such as a walk or hike, where social distancing can be maintained.
- Don’t go to indoor play spaces such as indoor playgrounds.
Not seeing friends and co-workers can take a toll on us all. In Washtenaw County, there are resources to help those who are struggling:
- Community Mental Health offers 24/7 Crisis Services and more.
- Ozone House Crisis Line is available 24/7 for youth looking for support or are at risk of homelessness.
- You Are Not Alone resources and video for students dealing with depression, grief, loss, and other mental health issues.
In addition, the CDC offers useful guidance for individuals and parents on their Managing Anxiety and Stress resource page.
As Dr. Britton says, “We have already taken extreme social measures to address this serious disease — let’s not actively co-opt our efforts by having high levels of social interaction at people’s houses instead of at schools or workplaces.”
The practice of social distancing, even though it is challenging, is one that will improve the outcomes of COVID-19 and is a responsibility we have to ourselves, to each other and for the good of our community. We must act now as we each play a role and have a responsibility to each other in this current situation.
Thank you for your partnership in support of our children and staff, parents and families, and our Ann Arbor community. Together, we will get through this very challenging time.
Superintendent of Schools
Ms. Jenna Bacolor
Executive Director, Student and School Health