When is it safe for Ann Arbor Public Schools to Return to School?

When Will It Be Safe for Reopen Ann Arbor Public Schools?

When will Ann Arbor Public Schools Reopen? Today, the Ann Arbor Public Schools is holding a planning session with the school board to discuss this topic.

What We Know Already?

The district launched the 2020-2021 School Year with virtual learning. Return to school will be phased in once deemed safe. Return will start with early elementary and then continue with upper elementary and then secondary students.

Ann Arbor Public Schools - Fall 2020 Plans


Draft Metrics

Several times throughout both the planning meeting on September 11 and the board meeting on September 16 meeting, it was reminded that this was a work in progress and not a final policy. It is part of the district working towards a policy.

Key Metrics

The district is focusing primarily on 4 key quantifiable metrics. Each will be looked at predominately on a county basis, but will also look at the greater region and state totals:

  • Trend of New Daily Cases – Looking at this week to week and total number – They are looking for a decrease or a flat trend at a low number
  • New Cases per Million – Low risk is <7 cases, but Washtenaw County has never been at this level since the first reported cases and it is probably unattainable. Medium Risk is 7-20 cases and the goal for resuming class.
  • New Cases per 100,000 – Medium risk is 1-10 daily new cases. The district recommends <5 to be more consistent with the cases per million
  • Positivity Rate of Diagnostic Tests – Harvard Global Health recommends <3% which is the same as MI Safe Start. As a note, NY is using <1% as their metric.
Proposed Metrics for Return to School

In addition, the district is looking more qualitatively at the reported cases in the county among students in PreK-12 and individuals age 0-18.

Note: New Cases per Million and New Cases per 100,000 are reported by different groups and are not off by just a factor of 10. The Cases per Million are reported by MI Safe Start and uses onset of symptoms to assign dates. The Cases per 100K are reported by the Harvard Global Health Initiative and are based on test date. One uses just lab confirmed cases and the other also includes probable cases. It was not clear which metric uses which term.

Where we Have Been

September 10 Data

At the September 11 meeting, the following data was presented for September 10.

  • New Daily Cases โ€“
    • Washtenaw County: Flat ๐ŸŸก
    • Region: Down ๐ŸŸข
    • State: Down ๐ŸŸข
  • New cases Per Million โ€“
    • Washtenaw County: 28.5 โ€“ Medium High ๐ŸŸ 
    • Region: 36.2 in Region (High) ๐Ÿ”ด
    • State: 40.7 ๐Ÿ”ด
  • 100k
    • Washtenaw County 5 ๐ŸŸก
    • Region: N/A
    • State: 7.7 ๐Ÿ”ด
  • Positivity
    • Washtenaw: 1.8% ๐ŸŸข
    • Region: 4.1% ๐Ÿ”ด
    • State 3.4% ๐ŸŸ 
  • Demographics โ€“
    • Skewing Younger 228 cases from 8/22 -9/4: 3% 0-9, 10% 10-18, 36% 18-22
    • Racial Composition is also shifting

September 16 Data

At the September 23 meeting, they presented the following data.

September 16 Data

As the data above shows, AAPS has not yet achieved the metrics to go back to school.



The district’s plan was originally to evaluate the data at the end of each month and make a decision with the board of whether it was safe to return to school. In discussion, they have moved towards setting a policy that the board will approve and evaluate the data on a rolling basis. They will be bringing this plan to the full board to discuss vote on at subsequent meetings (scheduled for September 16 & 30).

The idea is that once the metrics are met, the district will alert that they have been met, then monitor them for 14 days to ensure they all stay green. After the September 16 meeting, it sounds lie the board will hold an emergency meeting to approve return to school. Then, they will begin the process of activating return to school. Return to school will take 2-3 weeks to reactivate staff, create cohorts, and communicate with families. However, the process will be stopped if the data starts to go in the wrong direction and the metrics are not met.

Some plans like PPE purchases, plexiglass barriers, distance markers, bus routes, etc have already been put into place. Other changes like touchless doors and bathroom fixtures are ongoing with the goal to be completed before in person learning resumes.

Return Process

Return will be phased in 3 stages starting with young elementary (Young 5-2nd) and those for whom virtual learning presents a significant challenge (special education with high impact, English Language Learners, and those with additional needs). Stage 2 will be grades 3-5 and stage 3 will be secondary students beginning with middle school. Each stage will last about 3 weeks before moving to the next phase.

Return to School will be in the hybrid model with students returning 2 days a week or remaining home. If space allows some high risk students may return 4 days a week. When students are at home, they will be connected to the in person class and teacher via Zoom meetings.


Detailed Notes:

We took detailed notes on the September 11 Planning Committee Meeting.

September 11 AAPS BOE Planning Meeting Notes

Notes from September 16 Board meeting which was very long. This meeting focused on Return to School, some purchases, and a discussion on Fall Sports.

September 16 Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education Meeting Notes

Back to School Information

Our Back to School Guide has more information on Back to School and Virtual Learning.

Ann Arbor Back to School Guide

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