Ann Arbor Public Schools announced their Fall 2020 Return to School plan (and for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year) at the School Board Meeting on July 22. Ann Arbor Public Schools will start the year in a fully virtual mode. Families have 3 options to choose from that include a hybrid option (once safe), a virtual synchronous option, and an asynchronous full virtual option. Since that board meeting, more information has gradually been released.
The plans for Fall 2020 continue to evolve. AAPS has taken parent feedback into consideration and is modifying their plans to reflect some of these concerns. As such, some information from earlier meetings has become outdated. We still have links to prior meeting notes.
2020-2021 School Year Options
Ann Arbor Public Schools will start fully virtual for all modes. When they decide it is safe, they will gradually reopen. They are offering families a choice of three options for the 2020-2021 school year.
- A2 Classroom Connect – Students are connected with a teacher and classmates at their enrolled school. It will start as a fully virtual program then transition to a Hybrid of virtual and in-person learning once it is deemed safe. Virtual Learning will include both synchronous and asynchronous learning
- A2 Student Link – Students are connected with a teacher and classmates at their enrolled school. This is a fully virtual program throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Virtual Learning will include both synchronous and asynchronous learning
- A2 Virtual – A fully virtual program – Self-paced, asynchronous learning
AAPS is listening to family feedback on the learning options and is making changes to adapt the programs in response. For example, they are adjusting the virtual learning day for elementary students and are extending A2 Virtual+ to the elementary level.
Families should have received an email the week of 8/3 asking them to select their learning option. (I received my daughter’s on Friday August 7 and a reminder on Sunday, August 9 with a link to new informational videos. They are asking families to commit to their choice at least for the fall semester. In the August 9 grade level videos, they encouraged elementary families to make a choice for the whole year to maintain a consistent learning experience with their classroom teacher and classmates.
A2 Classroom Connect
While it will start in a full virtual mode, A2 Classroom Connect is designed to be a hybrid learning experience. Students will be assigned a teacher and classmates from their enrolled school. The school day will include both live virtual instruction and independent and small group activities.
When it is safe to return to the building, it will be in hybrid mode with some students at home and some in school. For example, Group A would be in the building Monday, Tuesday and home Wednesday-Friday, Group B would be home Monday-Wednesday and in the building Thursday, Friday, and Group C decides they are not ready to return and is home 5 days a week. The teacher will be teaching both the in person students and the virtual students at the same time.
A2 Student Link
A2 Student Link is a fully virtual learning experience. Students will be assigned to a teacher and classmates. Originally it was said that Student Link might be combined across schools based on numbers, but recent communication seem to indicate that they will remain linked with teachers and classmates from their school.. The school day will include both live virtual instruction and independent and small group activities.
A2 Virtual+ Academy
A2 Virtual+ Academy is a fully virtual learning experience. It offers independent, self-paced learning. AAPS has offered this option to high schoolers for many years with some classes available to middle school and 5th grade students. Their original plan this year was to make it available to all middle and high school students. In response to parent feedback, they are also extending A2 Virtual+ to the elementary level.
In A2 Virtual+, students receive a syllabus and assignments that they can complete on their own schedule. They will receive written feedback from the teacher and weekly live video sessions with their teacher. Especially at younger grades this will be more like homeschooling with a curriculum, assignments, and assessments provided by A2 Virtual. This is an option for an older child who can self-manage or a student who has enough at-home adult support.
A2 Classroom Connect vs A2 Student Link (New 8/11)
On August 11, Ann Arbor Public School released a new video detailing the differences between A2 Classroom Connect and A2 Student Link.
Both A2 Classroom Connect and A2 Student Link are tied to your enrolled school – a teacher from your school and classmates from your school. If you plan to return, select A2 Classroom Connect. If you plan to remain virtual, select A2 Student Link. If you are not sure on returning, you will be able to remain virtual in A2 Classroom Connect.
For families planning to stay home, A2 Student Link will provide less disruption from the return to classroom.
For elementary students, it is suggested to make a selection for the entire year to maintain teacher continuity. Switching modes would likely require a teacher/class change which is not common at elementary.
It is easier to change between options for middle and high school students for several reasons:
- Some middle and high school classes will be mixed with A2 Classroom Connect and A2 Student Link students. This is particularly true of classes like music, higher level languages, and electives.
- Middle and High School Students will return to school later than elementary schools.
- Middle and High Schools often change schedules/teachers at the semester anyway, so changing options between semesters is less disruptive.
The Learning Day for A2 Student Link and A2 Classroom Connect will be very similar throughout the year, particularly when in an all virtual environment. The day will be split into learning blocks for different subjects. Each block will typically start with a synchronous live lesson. Then, it will transition into an asynchronous learning activity. The asynchronous time will include individual and small group activities. Individual activities may be online or offline.
School will begin on Tuesday, September 8. The week prior (August 31-September 4) will be a week of device/materials pickup and orientation. Learning is scheduled to begin September 8. At the July 22nd meetig The AAPS calendar page still lists only start dates and winter/spring break dates. But, check out our article on the AAPS School Calendar for 2020-2021 for all the dates that have been announced and for the full calendar once it is released.
Why Virtual and When Will In Person Schooling Start
Why is school starting virtual? When will Ann Arbor Public Schools resume in person classes? AAPS is basing their timing on science.
These questions were answered at the July 22nd Board Meeting, but not until the Health section about 3 hours into the meeting. The district has published the Health section of the study session into a separate YouTube video. It is over an hour long and includes Q&A from the trustees. If you don’t want to watch the entire video, I suggest watching the segments at 15:50 (infection timeline) and 29:52 (testing process). I felt these were the two most important sections to explain their decision.
The summary of those two segments: Patients with COVID-19 are infectious 1-2 days before symptoms appear and on average infect 2 other people. Looking at a Patient 0, who infects Patient 1 & 2. The goal is to identify Patient 0 as a COVID case before Patient 1 & 2 (first generation) become infectious. This way Patient 1 & 2 can be quarantined so that they don’t infect Patients 1.1 & 1.2 and Patients 2.1 and 2.2 (second generation). In many cases, current testing turnarounds and contact tracing/notification are not fast enough to even catch Patients 1.1/1.2/2.1/2.2 before they become infections leading to a third generation of cases. It is the difference of one case becoming 3 or 9 and the size of the quarantine needed becoming larger.
I also found it important to note that even with remote students and most staff working remotely, the district has had cases of COVID-19 exposure and the need for quarantine of district staff.
Return to In Person
Since July 22, the district has provided additional information on the return to in person learning. The transition will prioritize return to learn for the younger children and students with special needs that can benefit the most from in person learning. The first phase will include children in early elementary. The second phase will be upper elementary. In the final phase, middle and high school students will return. For students in A2 Classroom Connect, the return to school will be in hybrid mode.
The district has assured that no model will mean 6-7 hours of screen time for students. Each learning day block will include online instruction and independent work that may not be on a device.
The district will be rolling out 1:1 Technology District Wide. With synchronous virtual learning siblings will not be able to share devices. (As an aside, this is also better for in-school use to not have children sharing devices). iPads will be provided for PreK-1 and Chromebooks for grades 2-12. On July 29 the school board approved a $4.2 million purchase of 13,000 new Chromebooks. The district previously purchased new iPads in February.
Devices will be pre-loaded with grade specific applications. In the district’s experience, using district devices dedicated to a child significantly decreased the number of Help Desk calls that were associated with family devices that could not run or did not have certain apps installed or had another family member logged in.
Device Pickups are scheduled for the week of August 31.
They have discussed the new Schoology platform. Schoology can be considered like a toolbox that holds tools like SeeSaw, Google Classroom, etc. They used Schoology over the summer and saw a decrease in help desk calls. While there were still some negative reviews, the overall reaction was positive.
Schoology allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. If a student cannot attend a synchronous learning session, it will be available for them to watch later. Or if they want to rewatch a lesson they are struggling with they will have that option. Schoology also has the option for small group breakouts and whiteboards.
They will be sharing best practices in online instruction across the district. Teachers are sharing with each other and what is working for their students.
A2 Connection+ Learning Groups
A2 Connection+ was inspired by the learning pods that families have talked of forming to assist with childcare and learning. They will be targeted to the most vulnerable students based on socio-economic needs and special needs learners. A2 Connection+ Learning Groups will be a small group of students (6-8 with 1-2 adults). They will assist students in their virtual learning, provide mental health and food and nutrition support. During the summer learning experience, AAPS worked with Peace Neighborhood Center to provide a similar group. Connection+ will likewise be run with community partners.
Food Distribution of breakfasts and lunches will continue throughout all phases of the learning plan. AAPS will continue their partnership with Food Gatherers to provide this support. On August 31, the USDA extended the exemption allowing for emergency food distribution to all families. With synchronous learning this school year,AAPS plans to add additional late afternoon pickup slots that won’t disrupt the school day.
Do you need food support this summer? Check out our list of Food Distribution days and times.
MHSAA met on July 29 and approved low risk fall sports (Cross Country, Golf, Boys Tennis, and Girls Swimming & Diving). They can start practices on August 12 however swimming/diving practice must be held outdoors at this time. Other fall sports can start outdoor conditioning and practices, but a decision on competition will be made around August 20. AAPS is still evaluating how they will respond. Since the July 29 meeting it was announced that there was an individual who attended girls field hockey and basketball summer conditioning has tested positive.
Extra Curricular & Travel
With a fully virtual start to the 2020-2021 extra curricular and field trips has not been addressed since the May 20th board working session.
Extra-Curricular like sports, performing arts, and other clubs and social events are important experiences for classes. However, they will likely be deeply impacted by social distancing safeguards.
Student travel and field trips will likely be restricted through the 2020-2021 school year.
There will be no new foreign exchange students for the 2020-2021 school year. Those students on multi-year programs will remain.
With a fully virtual start to the 2020-2021 school year, transportation has not been addressed since the May 20th working session. I expect to see more details as A2 Classroom Connect moves to a hybrid model.
School bus transportation will change for 2020-2021 to provide safe and healthy practices on the school bus. Parents will be asked to reserve their child’s space on the bus to help preserve distance. Bus routes may change throughout the year as attendance and demand shifts.
July 14 Statement from the Teacher’s Union
On July 14, the Ann Arbor Education Association (the teacher’s Union) shared the following statement on Facebook. The president of the AAEA also read the statement at the July 15 board meeting.
Informational Meetings & Publications
- Wednesday, August 12 -7p – Board Meeting
- Wednesday August 19 – Board Retreat
- Wednesday, August 26 – 7p – Board Meeting
Past Meetings & Publications
- May 20th session is available on the CTN site.
- May 29 Reimagine Learning Framework draft can be found on the district’s website.
- June 4 Townhall on Facebook
- Wednesday, July 15 – Board Meeting – See our Notes & Find out how to watch
- Wednesday, July 22 – Board Study Session – See our Notes & Find out how to watch
- Wednesday, July 29 – Board Meeting – See our Notes & Find out how to watch
- Wednesday, August 5 – Letter to Family & Dr Swift Video – See our notes
- Sunday, August 9 – AAPS Grade Level Videos – See videos and our notes
State of Michigan Return to Learn Plan
The State of Michigan released their Return to Learn Roadmap on June 30. This requires the district to develop 3 plans – no in-person learning during Phase 1-3, a Phase 4 Plan with strict requirements for in-person learning, and a Phase 5 Plan with moderate requirements for in-person learning.