August 19th Ann Arbor Board of Education Meeting

Notes from Ann Arbor Public Schools August 19th School Board Meeting

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education is holding Board Meeting on August 19 at 6p to continue their discussion for Fall 2020.

There is another Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education on Wednesday August 26.


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Background: Summary of Ann Arbor Public School’s Plans for Fall 2020

Just to recap where we are before the meeting starts. Ann Arbor Public Schools is returning fully virtual to start the 2020-2021 school year. Families have been asked to select one of the learning options below by August 14

  • A2 Classroom Connect – Will start as a virtual learning environment and then will transition to a hybrid model when it is safe to reopen. Students will be assigned teachers and a class based at their enrolled school. Learning will include both synchronous and asynchronous time. Families can choose to continue virtually if they are not ready to return when hybrid starts.
  • A2 Link – A 100% virtual learning option. Students will be assigned to teachers and a class based at their enrolled school. Learning will include both synchronous and asynchronous time.
  • A2 Virtual+ – This is Ann Arbor Public Schools virtual learning environment that has been offered for years mostly at the high school level. It is a self-paced asynchronous virtual class and is available K-12

Connections+ will be small groups to support the most at risk students with support in virtual schooling, food needs, child care, and special needs support. They will meet in person when allowable.

Get more details in our AAPS Fall 2020 Plans article.

Ann Arbor Public Schools - Fall 2020 Plans

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Notes from the August 19, 2020 Board of Education Meeting

The purpose of our notes are to capture the key points of the meeting as it relates to parents and children. We will be predominately focusing on the parts of the meeting that affect students and parents. We will not be covering board business (like approval of minutes).

These notes are being taken live as the meeting airs. Please excuse any typos or mis-interpretations, (or my guesses at spelling the names of those who submitted public commentary).. You will need to refresh this screen to see updates.

The notes below will be taken as they are discussed. After the meeting, this information will be added to our AAPS Fall 2020 Plans article and then this article may be edited to a topic based organization.

The board meeting started at 4;30p with a private closed session. The public portion of the meeting started at 6:20p.

Attendees: Baskett, Lightfoot, Kelly, Gaynor, Lazarus, Nelson, Johnson, Swift

Lightfoot mentioned Gov Whitmer’s speech. today for CARES act money for Michigan schools. She emphasized will go to the most needy districts. She focused on English language learner, disadvantaged, etc. It sounded like she mentioned using buildings for daycare purposes. For districts of means what is the issue with that.

Swift. It is on my list of issues. We know parents have need, but it takes funds to setup.

Note: At this point they seemed to realize they were in public session.


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Public Commentary

All AAPS Board Meetings start with Public Commentary.

Dr Ankar : An Ann Arbor Pediatrician. On July 22nd I authored a letters signed by 40 other pediatricians. Since then other local school districts have made a plan to phase in on-person learning in 3-4 weeks. AAPS remains committed to virtual without any other solutions to in person learning or to ease the burden for families to find childcare. Many have hired private childcare or private schools. All of this has been paid for already with their tax dollars. And many families don’t have the means to do so. The reality is there are no stated metrics in the district’s plan. I’ve seen the A12Super Twitter feed highlighting plans in areas without plans like Florida and Georgia where they did not use precautions and pushed students back to soon.

Many teacher unions across the country have asked for 1% spread and <5$ positivity race. We are at 0.5% in the state and 0.25% in the county. Pediatric cases represent less than 4% in our community. When other poorly controlled states shouldn’t be used as fear tactic.

As the parent of a 5 year old, I have zero confidence in Zoom Kindergarten. My 2nd grader cried on hearing we were returning virtual. Bus routes looped, mandatory masking, outdoor learning.

Middle and high school students a more gradual phase in should be used. Any in person learning is better than none.

No other industry has had the luxury of this much time to prepare for their reopening.

Half-filled elementary classes is the better option than none.

Swift: I appreciate the remarks. I will reference that we have posted specific data about Ann Arbor and Region 1. It is not in tonight’s update but can be found on the website. It was from Ms Bacalor’s presentation last week. Tonight’s update includes the phased reopening plan.


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Reimagine Learning Plan 2020-2021 Update

Dr Swift: We continue to provide updates at each meeting. We have not include3d everything again. We have updated on July 22, 29, and August 12. We have specific upates from legislative updates and work in the district. Tonight is 3 parts to

Monday evening the full 251 page plan was submitted to the state. The goal of these Board updates is to focus on what our parents and families need to know.

  • Health & Safety First
  • Quality Educational Experience
  • Supports & Connections Across AAPS Community
  • Foundation of Social Justice & Anti-Racism
  • Focused on Full 2020-2021

Following up on Student/Parent program selection. About 80% of emails were responded to. School teams are now working on creating classes & schedules. They do have a more firm student schedule. The Legislative session does allow a seat time waiver which gives more flexibility with the school day.

Food Distribution runs through Thursday, September 3rd (moved from Friday the last week). District is concerned they do not yet have the waiver for emergency feeding – that allows drive through distribution which doesn’t require an ID.

A reminder for families to make sure your children are receiving their recommended vaccinations. (As an aside, I was happy with how my daughter’s pediatrician handled her physical last week). Even though Young 5s/K, 7th graders and students new to district still need to show proof of immunization. With low immunization rates we are even more vulnerable to outbreaks fo these. The Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools has resources for low and no cost vaccines.

Technology update

Preparation of new devices is now in process. They are currently processing 5k current AAPS devices and updating, installing, and repairing. They are also processing 13k new devices with labels & cases. Those with devices from spring will exchange them for a new fully-loaded device. It might be two stops on the drive through pickup at your school. Devices will be customized for the grade level.

Connectivity

They purchased Kajeet for added data & renewal of 250 of exist6ing hotspot. They have a Comcast Essentials Sponsorship agreement for internet only Comcast services for $9.95/month and AAPS can pay the charge if needed. They are also going to continue using Verizon hotspots.

Today Dr Kellstrom moved forward to push out WiFi through an AAPS school bus. They do need electrical. The district will be asking for board support if this works well. They continue to work with Community Centers where students can gather to access virtual learning. Dr Kellstrom is helping them enhance or add WiFi capacity.


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Legislative Update

There is a seat time waiver that provides flexibility in how standards and curricula will be covered. Middle and High School will stay pretty close to a full school day (1098 per year). They are offering flexibility in the elementary day.

Student Count for 2020-2021 will be 75% from 2019-2020 and 25% from 2020-2021. This protects districts from likely loss of enrollemnt in 2020-2021.

We will be required to do a benchmark assessment. Having to do the first wthin the first 9 weeks i a hardship. Ms Linden is already working with her team on it.

Monthly update on plan must be provided to the board to include public commentary. AAPS has gone beyond that since March with 2+ public updates a month and additional private updates to board members throughout the process.

Additional 2020-2021 details are due October 1.

Current COVID Concerns

We are concerned about rising cases among teens. They look at risk level in region – Washtenaw County, Detroit Region. Tehy also look at number of outbreaks, specifically those involving people 0-20 years old.


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Transition to Hybrid

  • Stage 1: Begin with youngest students. Grades K-2 and willing students & families most in need of in person
  • Stage 2: Grades 3-5
  • Stage 3: Continue to transition secondary students

Calendar

Two Key dates:

  • August 31 week. Picking up supplies and tech.
  • September 8 classes begin

Fall Learning Path

They heard back from 80% of families

  • A2 Classroom Connect – 80%
  • A2 Student Link – 17%
  • A2 Virtual+ Academy – 6%

School staff are busy scheduling keeping in mind the selection parents have made. It is possible some elementary schools may have bending of A2 Classroom Connect and Student Link. But students can remain fully virtual as long as they want.

A2 Virtual Enrollment:

  • Elementary: 441
  • Middle School 192
  • High School 299
  • 1 or 2 courses – 3534 student

Sample Schedules

Elementary Day

  • 8:10-8:40 Morning Meeting (Synchronous)
  • 8:40-noon Core Academics (Synchronous & Asynchronous Blocks)
  • noon-12:48 Lunch/Recess
  • 12:48-1:18 Core Academics (Synchronous & Asynchronous)
  • 1:18-2:58 Specials/Small Group Sessions (Syncronous & Asynchronous – Dr Swift said this is optional)
  • 2:58-3:13 Closing Circle (Synchronous /Optional)
  • Wednesday is 9a-noon

Middle School – A/B days with 3 classes a day

  • 8:20-8:50 – Advisory Synchronous
  • 8:55-10>35a – Learning Block 1
  • 10:40-12:20 Learning Block 2
  • 12:20-1p Lunch
  • 1-3:08 Learning Block 3 & SEL Checkout
  • Wednesday is 8:55-11:44 asynchronous

High school – A/B days with 3 classes a day

  • 8:30-10:15a Block 1
  • 10:25-12:10 Block 2
  • 12:10-12:40 Lunch
  • 12:45-1:25 Advisory
  • 1:35-3:20 Block 3
  • 3:30-4:35 Optional 7th hour
  • Wednesday:
  • 50 minutes suggested asynchronous 8:30-3:15p

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Special Education Services

They are working with APAC & will have a special session for families with special needs. Services will be provided synchronously and in some cases asynchronously. They will look like they do during the regular school day as much as possible. There are more details coming.

Many questions coming in will be responded to by principal or school team. because they are very specific. Daily schedules will be provided tomorrow.

Trustee Questions

Baskett: Can we caution ourselves on the language with synchronous & asynchronous. If you can clarify that would be good. Also, if you could offer assurance that we will know and receive information especially if we aren’t the custodial parent. As a parent, we have committed to one day each among several adults. What do I need to know about Schology to get a student through the day or does only one parent need to knwo.

Swift: I noted that A2 Virtual had the definition of synchronous & asynchronous on their their home page. Synchronous = real time interaction. Asynchronous = having the information but not real time interaction. I also have to share that I needed extra help yesterday with Schoology. Help desk will be available 7:30a-7:30p the first weeks of school. We will have checklists for parents and parent orientation sessions. Those will be both synchronous live and in video. Parents should not stress, district will help the children get online. That is why the first week is truncated days. It gives the afternoon for troubleshooting.

Lazarus: About the legislative waiver for seat time, one of the things I’m hearing from parents is they like the virtual option but they don’t like the specific time. Are we looking at giving parents flexibility in how their child gets counted.

Swift: We’ll work with families on a case by case basis. After Monday’s vote we do have more flexibility to do it. Particularly for elementary we want to do it with the teacher and principal. I would suggest if you don’t ever want to be real time or live, consider A2 Virtual. If you do want some interactive but want to curtail parts of the day or week, we can work with teacher and principal.

Lazarus: Does the teacher actually have to see their face?

Swift: We are still sorting all that out. The threshold for counting on A2 Virtual does not require the live interaction. For classroom there are requirements and we are still sorting the new legislation.

Lazarus: I appreciate support of our community to breakdown the digital divide by making sure every child has device and high speed internet.

Kelly: First, have we confirmed the amount of synchronous can be supported by the amount of data with hotspots or even that the average family has. I know many families were surprised by the amount of data used in spring or summer.


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Swift; I will follow up with Dr Kellstrom. I know they were beta testing hot spots in spring. I will check back with Dr Kellstrom and make sure we’re ok.

Kelly: About benchmark assessments. I understand it is new. Have they given any guidance on which assessment and how it will be proctored. If it can only be done in person are we in trouble with families who have said they won’t come back for classes.

Swift: There are some things noted. We do intend to administer them virtually. It will be a first time to do it this way. We are working on how that can occur.

Kelly: Instructional minutes. Especially for high schools this is a departure from how they are doing it. I know the state has to approve, but I am concerned about the number of classes available especially for upperclassmen who need classes to graduate.

Swift: We are delivering a full schedule for high school day. For parents of middle and high schoolers for those considered that we need a more flexible day there is A2 Virtual or we have addressed middle and high schools have addressed abbreviated schedules when needed.

Kelly: It came up in Slide 29 – Wednesday for high schoolers with about 50 minutes in each learning block. Does that refer to the same classes from A/B days or something that is Wednesday specific?

Linden: Wednesdays they see all 6 blocks they are scheduled for. They are asynchronous blocks so students can go in and out.

Swift: They could wipe those out on Tuesday afternoon if they really wanted right and have a free day on Wednesday.

Linden: It will depend on when they are loaded up. We are requiring them by the start of the school day, but if they are posted earlier they can be done early.

Kelly: So for Rec & Ed or clubs, we’re really talking about the elementary only? The big kids will be in class all day just asynchronously.

Swift: I am seeing it this way for the first time too. I thought it was more loose too. Ms Linden, is that to help students see how they might map out their day?

Linden: There are activities/lessons posted for all 6 blocks that day. The intention is to provide them some flexibility. The blocks are shorter.

Kelly: I am sure it will be different for each subject and teacher too.

Swfit: An udpate provided later: They felt the need to avoid the notion that it was a totally free day and they needed the touchpoint to each class.

Johnson: My first question is about computer distribution. For those students who currently have technology they will turn in the old and get new correct?

Swfit: Yes.

Johnson: About the buses with the WiFi. Is it the idea they would be there during the school hours, how would it work?

Swift: The ones I’ve seen they’re usually just parked there. They do need electricity, but they’re just left there so the students can do homework, and interactive school work. I know when we bring it to the finance committee. The first one is being tried at ~$5000. If it is successful we will bring it to finance to do more. Other districts might be parked in an area near a neighborhood, but it’s there to be used.


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Annex Playground Engineered Wood Chips

Swift: You are accustomed to buying wood chips for our playgrounds. It prevents injuries. There is something about this agenda item that feels normal.

Lauzzana: I am happy to provide a piece of normal at this meeting. Engineered wood fiber is a specialized mix used on playgrounds and creates a fall-zone under playground equipment. It is usually at least 12″ deep to provide a safer surface when a kid falls. We issued request for bids as we do every year. AMS Grounds from Ypsilanti As $63000. Previously it was $71000 with a different vendor.

Lightfoot: How are we juxtapsoing this with in person play while we are on virtually?

Lauzzana: We are looking at ways to save costs. There was a time during the pandemic when playgrounds were closed. But with the city and county we have reopened the playgrounds. While they are not used during the school day they are used by neighborhood residents and visitors.

Lazarus: The amount in the AMS in paragraph 2 & 3 is different than the bid and awarding amount. Am I missing something.

Swift: I see that, I am wondering if it is a typo.

Lazarus: So we will approve it for the $63.6k.

Lauzzana: The correct amount is $63360..

Lazarus: So the public understands how deep are these woodchips. That sounds like a lot even though we have 24-27 playgrounds.

Lauzzana: A new playground is generally specified as 12″. Over time they end up displaced. We don’t typically measure the depth but we add 1-2″ per year. That’s the generally accepted practice.

Kelly: What is an engineered wood fiber? Is it not wood?

Lauzaana: It is all wood but it is a special mix of shapes and sizes. I don’t know all the science but it creates a better cushion.

Kelly: So it isn’t a composite, or glued, or rubber.

Lauzzana: Right, it is 100% wood fiber


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Responsible Contracting Policy

This is the first briefing on the Responsible Contracting Policy. As a district we bear a responsibility to be good stewards of the monies we are entrusted. For years we have used a bidding process. As this is more business fo the district, I am going to take a short break.

This policy was at least part of the board’s closed session earlier with their lawyer. There was some debate whether they had enough information from the lawyer to be able to have a public discussion. Trustee Gaynor wanted to hold a discussion, but the majority of the trustees felt they needed further clarifications in closed session from the lawyer before holding public discussion. It has been postponed for a future meeting.

A2 Virtual+ Academy Expansion

A second briefing on the expansion of A2 Virtual+ to Elementary and Middle School for 2020-2021 prior to a vote. Dr Swift says there were no updates.. The board will later vote to approve the expenditure.

Lazarus: The numbers from parent choice are similar to the number you posted before. For the 3000+ students chossing to take 1-2 classes how does that work for us?

Swift: There is a per course charge. It is a lesser amount. Those are mostly high school courses and maybe a few at middle school.

Linden: In the past there have been so few students attend full time. Now it is more economical to get unlimited licenses per student since we have more interest.

Lazarus: Our numbers are 441 elementary and 192 in middle school want A2 Virtual+. Then there are 3000+ asking for 1-2 classes. Do we have to purchase a full license for them.

Linden: Yes, we would have to if they sign up for 1 class.

Lazarus: This is something we as a district are providing or are we asking parents to pay?

Swift: We are required by law to offer 2 courses to grades 5-12.

Linden: In the past we pay course by course where it is $45-50/class so it was $50-100/student anyway. But for the full time students we won’t have to pay for 6 classes. The 3000 number is people who might be interested. We don’t expect all to sign up (note as a HS parent I selected it because it was the only way to ensure I received the information).

Lazarus: The 600 full time students are covered by this proposal.

Linden: What we are proposing is $150 per student model for each student opting for any A2Virtual. Cost is dependent on registrations.

Swift: We will report back about the enrollments and actual costs when it is finalized.

Johnson: Is the cost we would feasibly be approving tonight, is there a possibility it is more than this or is this a amx.

Linden: In the middle of your report, you will see a chart that says anticipated enrollment. Principals are reaching out to ensure families who chose A2Virtual understand the asynchronous nature. Some families have already changed because they didn’t realize it was asynchronous. Middle school we are under enrollment (250 budgeted vs 192 enrolled).

Nelson: What we are talking about is the expansion of A2Virtual which is middle and elementary. Those numbers make sense. Trustee Lazarus has introduced the continuation of the program which is not an expansion. That 3500 is current poilcy correct. My question is the single course indication which is a continuaton of the program aexpecting an expansion in enrollment. Or is that consistent with last year.

Linden: We’ve never sent out a mass survey in the past. My guess is the community is more aware that it is an option. we will probably see an increase in families choosing. We can’t have both models – unlimited license and per course license. Based on survey data it is more cost effective to go unlimited.

Nelson: I do think going back to Trustee Lazarus’ initial point, we should go back and calculate what the cost would have been the other way. If the 1-2 course numbers do go up significantly, that cost could eclipse the expansion of full time program.

Lazarus: How many classes does a student have to be signed up to be considered a full time or part time student.

Swift: The answer is it depends.

Linden: A full-time student in virtual is similar to a full time student in person. It is 6 classes at middle and high school. For elementary it is by grade level.

Lazarus: If a home-school parent wanted to enroll their student through A2 Virtual for some classes, how many classes would the have to sign up for to count as per pupil funding?

Linden: There is a difference between being a part in person and part A2 Virtual and being part home school and part A2 Virtual. Home schooled students are only eligible to take electives. Many A2 Virtual may have 5 classes at A2 Virtual and take band or theater in person at their home school.

Swift: This can explain why our pupil count is not a round number. It is a full time equivalent


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Digital Academic Reading Materials

Last week Ms Linden and school library staff presented a first briefing on Digital Academic Reading Materials. There are no additional updates and then the board will vote to approve the expenditure.

Digital Library Collection

The Digital Library Collection using Sora from OverDrive was proposed last week. Ms Linden will provide information and answer any additional questions. The board will also vote to approve the purchase.

Consent Agenda

Trustee Nelson motioned to approve – The A2 Virtual+, Digital Academy Reading Materials, Digital Library Collection, Donation Approval, and minutes. Trustee Lazarus seconded. The motions passed unanimously

Meeting Conclusion

The meeting adjourned at 8:53p with no additional items from the board

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