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. The plan is for the school board to vote to approve it on July 29. Ann Arbor Public Schools will start the year in a fully virtual mode. Families have 3 options to choose from.
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.
Informational Meetings & Publications
- Wednesday, July 29 – Board Meeting via Zoom
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
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 – A Hybrid of virtual and in-person learning – Both synchronous and asynchronous learning
- A2 Link – A fully virtual program- Both synchronous and asynchronous learning
- A2 Virtual – A fully virtual program for students in middle and high school. Self-paced, asynchronous learning
Ideally, families will stay in the same learning track for the full school year, but at least a semester. However, families who choose A2 Classroom Connect can stay virtual if they are not ready to return when the district reopens.
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 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.
School will (kind-of) begin on Monday, August 31! The first week of school will be an orientation week with learning scheduled to begin September 8. 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.
Spectrum of Learning
They are working on a plan that will be a spectrum from Modified Face to Face -> Blended – >Virtual. Both in the video meeting and the laid out framework, they mentioned that the spectrum will be like a dial rather than an on-off switch. This will allow the district, individual schools, and even individual families to move along the spectrum as circumstances require.
At the July 15 meeting, Dr Swift stated that they expect to be at several different positions on the dial in the 2020-2021 school year.
Virtual learning will be an option for any family who is not ready for their children to return.
A few key points:
- Virtual Learning will be an option for all PK-12 students in 2020-2021 even with the return of full in person learning at Phase 6
- Virtual Learning will be Synchronous in 2020-2021 – meaning attending classes that are held live
- The District is providing 1:1 Technology for anyone who requests it moving forward.
Aligned with Michigan Safe Start Phases
The AAPS Spectrum of Learning will be aligned with the Michigan Safe Start Phases. When the state is in Phase 1-3, the district will only provide virtual learning. In Phase 4 & 5, the district will provide both virtual learning and blended learning combining in-person and virtual learning. Social Distancing restrictions will be stronger in Phase 4 than Phase 5. Full in-person learning will not return until Phase 6.
See the Michigan Return to Learn Plan for guidelines on Phase 4 & 5.
In a Blended Learning environment in a Phase 4/5 Reopening, class attendance will be spread out with part of the class attending in person on a day and the other part attending virtually. The Framework released on May 29 shows the school varying between 25-50% attendance on a given day based on community spread levels. At a 25% model, most students would attend one day a week. At a 50% model, most students would attend two days a week. The fifth day would be used to allow additional attendance by students the most in need of in-person time.
50% occupancy, students at home will join class virtually. Students will alternate. All families will get a survey. Student surveys will also go to students in grades 3+. The surveys will ask for preference on schedule where family could be on same schedule – students across grades, staff/teacher parents, etc.
They are also surveying teachers for their preference. Are they comfortable teaching face to face, full classrooms, etc.
Virtual Learning will be paced to avoid a 7 hour online school day. In addition to the synchronous learning, there will be non-screen based activities such as independent reading, physical activity, maker projects, and individual assignments or projects.
While classes will be provided synchronously, they will also be recorded for watching later. This may be important for times of internet outages, high family demand at a certain time, or other commitments.
The working session with the board on May 20th heavily emphasized family choice. Families can pick the option that works for them within the bounds of what is permitted. There will be the ability to quickly shift between options overnight. For example if a class or family has an exposure and needs to switch to virtual, the system will be in place to make the switch overnight.
The Framework released on May 29 says that families may request a fully virtual experience for the 2020-2021 school year.
Full Child Education
AAPS will continue to focus on the whole child. They will continue to provide Social-Emotional and Mental Health Support to students, staff, and families. They will continue to partner with community agencies to support metal health.
The district will continue to focus on educating the whole-child with world class instructions. This will include continuing classes in visual/performing arts, PLTW/STEAM, Environmental Education, physical, Career & Technical Education.
School clubs and activities will also be offered as possible in both blended and virtual environments. Sports will be dictated by the MHSAA to comply with public health guidelines.
Grade Level Standards
In the working session, one of the trustees asked if the district expects changes to grade level expectations with the new learning method and time out of school.
The district responded that they expect the review period typical at the beginning of the school year will be longer in 2020-2021. They will redesign what needs to move from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021. They expect a 2 year process to catch up.
This is why they are looking to nimble support models since different kids will have different needs to catch up. The state of Michigan has not yet published adjusted requirements for 2020-2021.
Health & Safety
The district will be implementing additional health and safety protocols as recommended by experts.
Facilities is working on new protocols for cleaning, studying ventilation.
Mask protocols will be revised and based on health guidelines.
This will likely include:
- Daily Screenings – verbal questions and temperature checks
- Social Distancing
- Appropriate PPE – this may mean masks
- Building – Enhanced Ventilation and Cleaning Protocols
- Monitoring Illness & Completing Contact Tracing with confidential notifications – similar to how notifications have been done for other communicable diseases.
The Michigan Return to Learn plan does not require daily screenings or even decreased classroom size. According to the state plan, masks will be required all day for grades 6-12 and at least in common areas for elementary students. However, Michigan’s mandatory mask law on ages 5+ may make masks required for elementary students as well.
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.
Do you need food support this summer? Check out our list of Food Distribution days and times.
The district has assured that no model will mean 6-7 hours of screen time for students.
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-2 and Chromebooks for 3-12.
In the working meeting, they said they are looking to purchase 12,000-12,500 Chromebooks from the 2018 Bond money ($3.5 million). These would be new units that would have a 4-5 year life. They are looking at insurance options or warranties. With at home use, they estimate 10% breakage per year with a $50/$20/$0 family co-pay based on income level.
Not only will 1:1 Technology facilitate at home learning, it will also decrease the risk of sharing devices in the classroom.
Cyber Security & Support
They will be ensuring student privacy and system security. They are also moving to single sign-on so students don’t need different logins for each program being used.
They discussed the new Schoology platform at the working session which will bring together multiple learning platforms in one system. I know the use of multiple systems has been a complaint of many parents, especially of early elementary students.
The system allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Schoology also has the option for breakouts or whiteboard.
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.
Online Academic Skills Support & Summer Learning
At the working sessions, they said all students in the appropriate grades will have live online access to academic skills support like Dreambox and Lexia over the summer. They have also released Summer Learning Opportunities for 2020 which will help fill the learning gap, provide fun, and provide some daily structure.
Also, looking at providing lists of books that are available online through district accounts and Ann Arbor District Library.
At the working session, they said that virtual platforms will allow some interventions to be on-demand instead of scheduled where children are pulled out of class.
The Framework draft released on May 29 includes additional support in Phase 5. Extra in-person days can be provided for students in the most need of in-person learning and support. Since the May 29 Framework, the state has moved to allow in person learning in Phase 4. This may allow additional support in phase 4 as well.
At the working meeting, they said that it is a priority to figure out how to provide child care. What the district provides will be bound by space and social distancing requirement. They are reimagining child care. Extensive documentation on child care is small groups with no mixing. With the numbers that AAPS has served over the years, this can be difficult, but they are striving to provide this in the fall.
Child care was not addressed in the framework released on May 29. It was addressed at the town hall. They do not have a plan in place.
- If Social Distancing is still required, space is an issue.
- They are applying for a state grant.
- Goal is to offer childcare with priorities of essential workers and then those without other options
- Child care team is excited to help
- Younger students may be in school more than older children since child care is less of an issue.
Extra Curricular & Travel
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.
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.
They hope to the public health department on contact tracing. They have not yet committed. Even redeploying some AAPS staff to be trained as contact tracers when a case/exposure is discovered in the school.
They are still investigating how to care for students/staff who become symptomatic during the day, how to monitor disease and exposure risk at both building and district levels and how to communicate to families.
Summer Learning Plans
Ann Arbor Public Schools held a Townhall meeting on Thursday, May 21 about summer plans. I know my daughter is wondering what she is going to do once school is over. The elementary game sounds great. I’d be signing her up if she was young enough. Instead as a high schooler she is taking a class with A2Virtual+