April 2, 2020 - COVID-19 Update


AAPS COVID-19 Update
April 2nd

Hello AAPS Students and Parents, Staff and Community,

We have prepared this message to provide additional, important information.

Today, the Governor has issued an Executive Order directing an extended school closure for schools in Michigan through the end of the school year. We understand that we all will have many questions and we are committed to work together to answer those questions as we move forward together. 

Since our initial AAPS announcement of closure on March 12th, we have been working and preparing for the possibility of a more extended closure of schools. 

Health & Safety First

We all understand that we are currently experiencing an unprecedented public health crisis in southeast Michigan.  At this time, even before our critical mission of teaching and learning, we are attending to issues of health and safety first. 

I urge everyone to follow Governor Whitmer’s executive order to Stay Home and Stay Safe. To prevent gatherings in outdoor spaces, the City of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor Public Schools took the unprecedented step of closing parks and school playgrounds to the public. By staying home and practicing social distancing if we must go out, we all can help slow the spread of COVID19. 

Our Work So Far

Here are some of the steps we have taken so far since March 12th:

We mobilized a food effort and began the distribution of food across 16 locations in our community on Monday, March 16th.

I want to thank Liz Margolis, Victoria Davis and the Chartwells nutrition and Durham transportation teams, principals, teachers, nurses and other volunteers for their work in distributing more than 60,000 meals so far. We are committed to continue food distribution throughout this closure time.   

In addition, AAPS team members mobilized a drive to share essential household necessities to support students and families; essentials of soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc., were distributed alongside our food effort.

If you are experiencing a food need, please call our Food Help Line at 734-994-2265 or reach out to Food Gatherers at 734-761-2796.

We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support that we have seen from so many businesses, non-profits, and other community organizations to help meet the needs of all our students and families in our community. Those who wish to financially support this effort are encouraged to visit the Food Gatherers website. 

Mental health remains a priority, particularly during this stressful time. Our counselors and staff members are reaching out directly to known vulnerable students. We remind all our students that ‘You are not Alone;’ there are resources available for students dealing with depression, grief, loss, a sense of isolation, and other mental health issues, and we have additional community resources on our a2schools web page. 

I appreciate our amazing ITD team in their efforts to distribute almost 2,000 tech devices so that our students will have access to online learning and to support all our staff and parents during this transition to online learning. 

I am proud of all the efforts of our AAPS team to transition more than 7,000 individual classes to a distance-learning model. Over previous days, our teachers, staff, and leaders have been working hard to move to distance learning, participating in professional development to sharpen their skills, setting up their online classrooms and acclimating students and families to a distance-learning model.

Connections: Continued Student Engagement & Learning

Our talented teachers have been reaching out to connect and engage with students, and to share learning opportunities across the Ann Arbor Public Schools. In the days following spring break, we will transition into a more significant distance learning education model for our students.  

We are pleased to share that each of our teachers will be prepared to launch forward instruction, albeit with some changes from our brick and mortar programming, in the days after spring break. Families can expect scheduled and consistent lessons, materials and assignments to support students in making forward progress in the curricula in every subject area, at every grade level. We will share more details about the learning expectations for your student immediately following spring break. 

We encourage all students to participate and complete the assignments daily, or at least within the week, as we will be progressing in grade-level learning. To clarify, we will not replicate a full day of instruction via a screen in the online setting, nor would that be advisable for students and families. Yet, our teachers will be engaged with students around curricula, and quality AAPS content learning will move forward. 

We recognize that catching up academically from this COVID closure experience will not occur only during the upcoming 10 weeks following spring break; we understand that this will prove an ongoing process for all students and schools across the state and the country, and we are planning ahead now to meet this challenge in the AAPS. In addition to a foundation of regular engagement and content learning with the classroom teacher, we are also exploring a menu of optional learning opportunities and enhancements from which our middle and high school students and families may wish to take advantage in late spring and summer.

Highlights of these additional learning opportunities include:

  • A wide offering of A2 Virtual courses, beginning late spring and into the summer to provide multiple opportunities for students to access courses, 
  • An expansion of our partnership with Washtenaw Community College so students may take coursework to achieve simultaneous high school and college credit, and
  • A continuation of our robust AAPS Summer School 2020 program with many optional learning opportunities.

We will share more about these learning enhancements, as well as learning opportunities for our elementary students, beginning after spring break.

Spotlight on Additional Student Supports

We understand that our students and families have widely varying needs, abilities, and time-constraints, particularly during this crisis and associated social distance requirements, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach to distance learning in the AAPS will not serve our families well.

As a result, our teachers and school teams will be working, as they do every day, with students and parents to ensure we support a balanced approach to distance learning while also attending to other needed supports such as particular learning, social emotional and mental health needs.

A Special Note to Parents of Students with Additional Needs

As challenging as this extended closure has been for all our students and parents, we understand that the situation can be significantly more complicated for parents of students and families who experience:

  • impacts of poverty,
  • special learning needs as documented in an IEP or 504 Plan,
  • English as a second language,
  • social-emotional or mental health needs, and
  • other learning and life challenges.  

In the days following spring break, professional support staff, including counselors, social workers, and other service providers will be in contact with each family receiving specialized services to discuss details about how student support services will reasonably be provided within the online setting as we move forward. 

Specifically, a Parents of Students with Special Needs Help Line will be active beginning on April 6th at 734-994-2318.  In addition, we have set up a Student Intervention and Student Supports web page with specialized resources for families.

We are here to support our students and families.  If you are experiencing challenges, we encourage you to reach out to your teacher, counselor, school principal, or to call one of our Parent Help Lines.

Message for AAPS Students

Students, I want to state clearly that we have received a firm commitment directly from Governor Whitmer that student grade-to-grade and graduation progress will not be interrupted as a result of the COVID-19 school closure.

Students, I hope that you will use this time of school closure to proceed in your learning by staying engaged with your teachers in your online classrooms. Also, I hope that you will pursue learning and passions that matter to you. We have been inspired by so many of you who are already investing this time to learn, and leveraging personal learning in service to others.

Message for AAPS Seniors, Class of 2020

I want to offer a special note today to the Class of 2020 – clearly, you have been called in a remarkable way by history as you graduate high school at this unique moment during such an unparalleled time. I appreciate the maturity you have already shown as you process the potential impacts on your spring graduation.  

Over this past weekend, I was so impressed with the writing of Julie Heng, Huron High School Senior, who shared in the Detroit Free Press, “We understand that these times are unprecedented, and we know that humanity is larger than the moments we’ve been forced to forfeit.” So beautifully stated, Julie. 

Seniors, we will work together with you, as you work alongside your teachers and principals to process through the details of events such as prom and graduation; determinations on events such as these will be made as we move through this time and understand more about any extension of restrictions on public gatherings. I promise you that we will communicate as we are able to do so, and we will do everything we can to support you throughout this challenging time.

Additional Resources

To further support parents and students, we have created a web page with a wide variety of community resources. This includes sections dedicated to food, urgent needs, and social supports. Additionally, we have a section on activities to keep your children engaged while they aren’t at school. This includes free online learning opportunities from the Ann Arbor District Library and Khan Academy. Please feel free to share additional resources as we will continue to update this list.

While so much has changed in the realities of daily life for every student, staff member, parent and family as we live through this current COVID-19 crisis, one constant remains for all of us: we remain deeply committed to each and every child and family to ensure the continued health, learning, and growth. 

Thank you for your support of our 18,500 students and families, of the Ann Arbor Public Schools team, and of our Ann Arbor community. 

Sincerely, 

Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools