Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) students may be able to transition to an in-person hybrid learning model starting in March, according to a Jan. 13 statement from Superintendent Jeanice Swift.
The statement outlines a four-stage process to transition students to a hybrid in-person learning model. In-person learning will be available only to students/families who choose it, and remote learning will still be available. Each stage will be dependent upon community COVID-19 infection rates, vaccine availability, and a potential in-school antigen testing program.
Beginning in March, Stage 1 will focus on pre-kindergarten students, young fives, and kindergarteners who have chosen the hybrid in-person learning model. It will also include students with high-level specialized learning needs and small groups of middle and high school students deemed most in need of in-person classes.
According to the statement, Stages 2 through 4 will occur in approximately one-week intervals. Stage 2 will include students in grades 1-2 who choose a hybrid learning model. Stage 3 is slated to begin one week after Stage 2, and will include students in grades 3-5. Middle and high school students who choose the hybrid model will be transitioned after spring break as part of Stage 4.
Swift says parent response to the plan has been varied. She reports having heard from parents who are overjoyed at the prospect of putting their child on the bus, while other parents are very distressed by the idea.
"Then there is everyone in between. Our parents fall across a wide continuum of needs and preferences regarding schooling during COVID-19, and we are absolutely understanding and respectful of that," Swift says.
She says one of AAPS' foremost goals right now is to meet students and their families at their point of need, whatever that might be. Swift says her intention is to "ensure that everyone has the information they need to make their own best decision."
"We recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution or conversation that can be had. There are at least 18,000 different situations," she says in reference to the number of students enrolled in AAPS.
More information on next steps will be shared in the next few weeks, with answers to the most commonly asked questions being shared in AAPS general communications. There will be more individualized follow-up for those who have very particular concerns.
Shedding light on what COVID-19 in-person schooling will look like will also be a priority for the AAPS.
"In our minds might be the most beautiful images of small children clustered on a carpet for a book reading. Or maybe we envision a cafeteria with children shoulder-to-shoulder having lunch," Swift says. "That is not going to be our reality for a while, and in the next few weeks we're going to help prepare folks for the adjustment."
Moving forward, specific transition dates will be recommended by Swift, approved by the Board of Education, and confirmed with staff, parents, and families at least two weeks prior to the return of students at each stage.
"Right now I want every parent and student to know that there is no crushing deadline or need to make a decision, and everyone will be able to choose for themselves," Swift says.
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Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.