November 12, 2021 - Superintendent's Update


AAPS lead, care, inspire graphicHello AAPS Students and Parents, Teachers, Staff and Community,

As we move through this 11th week of school and approach mid-November, we are thankful for the ongoing exemplary work of our AAPS students, our school and district teams, our parents and the community. We are stronger when we work together, and together we are making solid progress in our shared goal of supporting our students through this fall. 

To get a quick glimpse into one of our schools, check out 2 minutes at Dicken Elementary School, one in our series sharing insights into the tremendous work going on in our AAPS schools this fall. 

Positive news this week includes a significant and exciting step: pediatric COVID-19 vaccines are now available for children 5 to 11 years of age. 

I want to give a special shout-out to Maliah, 5th grader at Wines Elementary; her mom shared this great photo. Maliah’s reason for getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is simple and inspiring, “to do her part and keep her family safe.”  We are so proud of Maliah and of all our students and families who are taking this next important step of vaccination to support healthy and safe classrooms, schools and sustain a strong school opening this year.

Vaccine appointments for children are available in the community through pediatricians, at pharmacies and other locations. We continue our work alongside MDHHS staff to coordinate a series of vaccination events in the AAPS, with dates confirmed for Tuesday, November 16th and Thursday, November 18th next week. 

The availability of pediatric vaccines and booster shots are significant developments that will contribute to sustaining our schools as healthy places for our students and staff to gather and learn in person each day throughout this school year.

Summary Highlights of Superintendent Update (1-2 min read)

For those with limited time, this brief section contains the salient points from the lengthier full-text Superintendent update that follows and can stand alone as the weekly update.  

  • The MDHHS will offer vaccine clinics in the AAPS; MDHHS clinics in the AAPS will be held in the cafeterias at Huron and Pioneer between 4-7 PM on November 16th and 18th next week. More information is available here.
  • We invite you to visit our Winter Giving link on the AAPS website to find the many ways we can generously support the children and families in our community.
  • Next week we will host another virtual AAPS Job Fair on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, from 3 - 6 PM.
  • Our weekly AAPS COVID-19 Case Dashboard, updated today, reports 47 cases involving 24 schools and district locations. 

Quick read summary of the Super Update concludes here and full text of the message continues below.


Superintendent Update - Full Message

National Native American Heritage Month

November is the official month we dedicate to honoring Native Americans, to celebrate the rich cultures, traditions, histories and important contributions of Native people.  While we honor and celebrate individuals of Native American ancestry every day in our classrooms and across our schools in the AAPS, during November, we explore and deepen our collective awareness and understanding through rich art, literature and other cultural and learning connections. 

We are a stronger school community as we honor, embrace and celebrate our diversity, continually create a culture of belonging for all and value the connections that unite us as an inclusive Ann Arbor community.  

Thank You, AAPS School Psychologists!

We appreciate our AAPS School Psychologists every day and want to share a special shout-out during this National School Psychology Week. We value our School Psychologists and appreciate their important work - to help all students develop essential academic and social-emotional skills.

AAPS Staffing Update

We are making progress in filling in our AAPS team with talented staff this fall; continuing needs exist in some teacher and paraeducator positions, particularly in the area of Special Education. In addition, we continue to seek highly qualified candidates in high-needs hourly positions, including child care, noon hour, and custodial, ABM positions.

AAPS busses have run approximately 97% on time over recent days. We continue to add drivers and aides to the AAPS/Durham team so that we have an adequate cushion of substitutes needed to avoid any short-staffed days, particularly as winter approaches. 

We benefit from approximately 300 qualified substitutes who are actively working in our classrooms and 79 retired teachers and paras who regularly substitute in the AAPS, also.  This week, we have increased the daily rate of pay for substitute teachers (second increase this fall), and we invite those caring individuals who enjoy working with students to consider applying for this excellent opportunity, as well as to share this information across your network. 

For those who love working with children, the Ann Arbor Public Schools is a wonderful place to work; we invite you to learn more here and consider joining our team.  We also invite those who are interested in supporting our efforts this year to please consider signing on as a substitute; in doing so, you offer your talent, energy and experience in making a definitive and positive contribution to our students and schools. One day per week or even a day or two per month could make all the difference for our AAPS schools this year. For teachers, teaching assistant/paraprofessionals and other substitute positions, please contact EDUStaff at 877-974-6338 or online at www.EDUStaff.org.

Next week we will host another virtual AAPS Job Fair on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, from 3 - 6 PM.  Appointments will be scheduled via zoom, and sign-ups will be accepted through noon on November 16.  

AAPS COVID-19 Case Update

Our work to keep school environments low risk for COVID-19 transmission continues. Unfortunately, case rates for Michigan and Washtenaw County have remained stubbornly high, even as other states have seen decreases. Our school COVID-19 cases reflect this situation, with cases across all grades except 10th occurring across most of our schools this week. Our weekly AAPS COVID-19 Case Dashboard, updated today, reports 47 cases involving 24 schools and district locations. The majority of these cases are among students. Despite a high vaccination rate among AAPS staff, we observe that our schools are directly impacted by individuals who remain unvaccinated and a correspondingly high rate of COVID transmission continuing in the Ann Arbor community.

Our AAPS COVID-19 Response Team continues to conduct case investigations and contact tracing for every case in consultation with the Washtenaw County Health Department. The team also continues responsive screening testing for classrooms and schools where there has been a concentration of several cases in a short period of time. The team conducted two large pop-up testing events at schools this week, one each at an elementary and middle school.  School nurses also use clinical judgment to test students and staff individually at school. Of course, all student testing at school is conducted with parent consent. 

Great News!  AAPS/Washtenaw County Vaccination Rates 

AAPS is pleased to support vaccination for ages 5 to 11 years old, as well as for older students, as part of our ongoing efforts to keep schools open while protecting students, staff and community from the virus.  Washtenaw County parents are already way out front in getting their 5 to 11-year-olds vaccinated. As of Thursday, the state rate for children ages 5 to 11 years old who have initiated vaccination is 4.8%, but in Washtenaw County, we are at 15.4%. 

Now that we are into cold and flu season, other respiratory illnesses are circulating in our community. The good news is that our county is a state leader in flu vaccinations; the bad news is that our flu vaccination rates across all age groups are lower at this time in 2021 than they were in 2019 and 2020. The flu shot is recommended for everyone ages six months and above. We urge everyone in the AAPS to get a flu shot or the flu mist as soon as possible if they haven’t already. Find a flu shot near you at https://vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/

Our Super Six mitigation protocols, in particular masking and cleaning, will help keep COVID-19 as well as other respiratory illnesses at bay. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Information

The Ann Arbor Public Schools is partnering with the Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services to offer COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics to AAPS students ages 5-18 years old and their family members. The clinics will be administered by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

These school-based vaccination clinics are just one of many ways for students to receive the vaccine. The Washtenaw County Health Department, pediatricians/doctors’ offices and local pharmacies also have vaccines available for students.

A reminder that a parent or guardian must accompany students 17 years of age and younger to the vaccination appointment. A letter and parent permission form is being sent to families this week. In the letter, we ask families to link to a registration form, signing up for a designated hour; we estimate the clinic can administer about 80 vaccines an hour.

The MDHHS clinics in the AAPS will be held in the cafeterias at Huron and Pioneer between 4-7 PM on the following dates:

  • November 16 at Pioneer
  • November 18 at Huron
  • November 23 at Pioneer 
  • (No Huron clinic during the week of 22nd due to Thanksgiving)
  • November 30 at Pioneer
  • December 2 at Huron

The U of M Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools clinic is also offering COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 to 11 years old by appointment at the Pathways to Success Clinic

Winter Giving

As the weather becomes colder, we reach out in care and connection, joining with many others in our Ann Arbor community in support of AAPS students and families in need. During this time of winter giving, our efforts focus on helping to make this season a little brighter by providing gift cards, warm clothing and other basic needs over the holidays. We invite you to visit our Winter Giving link on the AAPS website to find the many ways we can generously support the children and families in our community.

I want to share special gratitude for everyone on our team - our students, teachers, school teams and leaders, parents and our Ann Arbor community. All are working incredibly hard together, making efforts and sacrifices every day to support our students and sustain this exciting opening of our schools this fall. Step by step, we are making progress together. 

In the actions and steps we each take every day, we serve as role models of perseverance during difficult times for our children who are observing; we demonstrate our care and commitment to our children, to each other, to our Ann Arbor community and to our shared future. Thank you for your support of all our students and of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Sincerely, 

Jeanice K. Swift
Superintendent of Schools
Ann Arbor Public Schools