Reimagine Learning Update July 23rd

  • AAPS Reimagine Learning Update
    July 23rd

    Hello AAPS Parents and Community,

    As we approach the end of July next week, it’s natural to turn our attention to back-to-school, and yet we all understand that this is a most stressful time in considering the upcoming 2020-21 school year in the context of the current COVID pandemic. 

    We discussed the planning in progress for the upcoming school year 2020-21 at the Board of Education Study Session last evening, exploring the following issues:

    You can follow the links above for more in-depth information on these topics or if you are interested in watching videos from the meeting they are available here, yet I wanted to provide in this email general highlights of what staff and families can expect when the school year kicks off.

    Student Safety First

    Student safety remains our top priority, even before teaching and learning.  We are hard-wired for student safety: whether it’s a regular school activity, such as serving on bus or street crossing duty, conducting safety drills or, as a Superintendent, remaining watchful overnight to monitor Michigan winter weather to make the safe weather call for student safety. At times, decisions represent a more significant milestone, such as: fighting a court battle to the Michigan Supreme Court to prevent the open carry of weapons in Ann Arbor and Michigan schools or, back in March, making the anguishing decision to close school buildings to protect students and staff, and today, as we evaluate the prospect of a back-to-school season amidst a historic COVID pandemic. As educators and Trustees, we are designed for student safety; student safety is in our very DNA, and this ever-present priority is what drives our considerations, discussion, and decision-making today.

    The Recommendation

    At this time, as the science and current data do not yet support the safe return of all students to in-person instruction in our buildings, the Ann Arbor Public Schools will begin the 2020-21 school year on a virtual learning status.

    The week of August 31st is designated as a week of preparation and onboarding activities for AAPS students and families with support from our AAPS team. We will share more specific details about this week of orientation during August.  

    All students will report to class online to begin the 2020-21 school year, and learning will be in session in the AAPS, starting on Tuesday morning, September 8th.

    This Fall 2020 virtual learning approach will feature daily, real-time, interactive learning, students directly engaged with quality AAPS teachers, classes, curricula, and wide program offerings.  Please note: the plans for Fall will provide a dramatically different and improved interactive education experience from the spring experience. 

    When COVID data supports a safe return to in-person instruction, the AAPS will deploy a phased approach, bringing students in by grade levels and monitoring health data during this process, beginning with the youngest and students with the most need first.

    During the 2020-21 school year, three program choices are available to parents. AAPS programs feature quality AAPS teachers and rich AAPS curricula and programs, including engagement with students, teacher and class in a real-time, synchronous classroom that provides for regular feedback, skill development, grades and accrues academic progress toward the next grade level and credit toward graduation.  

    These program offerings include:

    A2 Classroom Connect - a classroom learning opportunity with quality AAPS teachers and staff, curricula and programs that begins virtually, and when it is safe,  students will migrate first to a hybrid schedule and then potentially to full, in-person learning. When needed throughout this school year, students may access this classroom virtually.

    A2 Student Link – a classroom learning opportunity with quality AAPS teachers and staff, curricula and programs where students are a member of a virtual class and these students intend to remain entirely virtual AAPS students through at least the Fall semester.

    A2 Virtual (Grade 6 -12) – an independent learning option where students complete their work in a self-paced approach, receive teacher feedback, and engage with their teacher one time per week in an interactive session.

    Connections Base Camp Groups

    Continuing throughout the 2020-21 school year, all AAPS students will be situated and meet regularly in base camp groups (also known by several names across AAPS schools as advisory, forum, SkyTime, etc.).  These groups build connections, develop relationships and ensure social-emotional supports are in place throughout the year.

    Connection+ Plus Supports

    During the time of virtual learning and continuing throughout the 20-21 school year, AAPS students with the most needs will be provided additional connections and support in small group settings to ensure real-time student and family supports are delivered. 

    Connection+ Supports are tailored for those students for whom accessing virtual learning presents the greatest challenge. This network of support groups will occur virtually and/or in-person at in-neighborhood community locations, using a safe and socially-distanced approach, dependent on COVID infection circumstances.

    Food and nutrition distribution will continue throughout this time, as we have consistently since March 16th.

    Next Steps

    We will be back in touch over the coming days with more information, to provide opportunities for input and feedback on our planning and to connect with parents to reserve their program preference for students for this fall.

    Certainly, we all understand the most important steps we must take each day in this community to stabilize and improve rates of infection so that we can move forward to return our students and staff to in-person learning in our school buildings:

    • Wear a Mask
    • Watch Our Distance – 6 ft.
    • Wash Our Hands

    As we approach this ‘back-to-school’ season, we all hear and understand the collective cry during this COVID time to get ‘back’ to normal, yet we recognize that for this 2020-21 school year, we will not return in the familiar way we used to do school. Instead, we are moving forward to a new way of learning and school, to reimagine learning, to innovate our way to best serve our students, support our staff, return to school, and enrich a healthy Ann Arbor community. 

    It takes a ‘whole village to raise our children’ well, and there is no more meaningful endeavor in a strong community. We are reminded by this COVID pandemic of how closely we are all connected; truly, our fates are inextricably tied together, even in the very air we breathe. 

    We know this Ann Arbor Public Schools community will rise to this current challenge, support each other and together, we will see our way to better days ahead.


    Jeanice Swift
    Superintendent of Schools