Ann Arbor schools are closing Thanksgiving week due to the COVID upsurge and staffing challenges
ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor Public Schools staff and students have the week leading up to Thanksgiving to “suspend” the transmission of COVID-19 and allow sick people to recover.
The district is offering time off for students and staff on Monday, November 22nd and Tuesday, November 23rd as an extension of the traditional Thanksgiving school vacation, AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift announced. Swift posted the news to the families late Wednesday, November 17, and also made the announcement during the district’s school committee meeting.
Over the past three weeks, COVID-19 cases from students and staff have steadily increased, Swift said, adding that AAPS has seen an increase in cases particularly since Friday, November 12, particularly among adults in both staff and staff also with partners / contractors.
AAPS has two buildings – Burns Park Elementary School and Mitchell Elementary School – which are part of the state’s ongoing COVID-19 school outbreaks.
In total, the district reported 47 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the week of November 8, with its dashboard updated every Friday. This week alone, AAPS saw a “spike,” with 21 adults and 30 college students confirming cases, Swift said during the meeting on Wednesday.
“We take these school closure decisions very seriously,” said Swift. “I understand that this week leading up to the announcement will present challenges to some of our families, and I sincerely apologize for the situation. We have been working over the past few days to make sure we have followed all available options to safely open our schools on these days. “
Over the past few weeks, Swift has said that COVID-19 cases have been spread across numerous buildings across the school district, affecting all areas of the district’s operations.
Combined with the challenges AAPS continues to face with staffing buildings and staffing teacher absences, Swift said the district expects a similar number of employee absences through Thanksgiving Holiday.
“During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we typically have less availability of replacements for teachers and staff,” said Swift. “Access to substitute teachers to fill gaps in school staff is a challenge that extends beyond the other non-vacation weeks this fall.
AAPS had three closed days out of 58 school days in the 12 weeks of fall, Swift said. Michigan school districts are allowed to close school for six days each year. Ann Arbor Public Schools had previously chosen to cancel classes on November 1st in order to properly occupy its buildings.
Swift said AAPS will take appropriate steps, if necessary, to achieve the full legal year for students and staff in that 2021-22 school year, Swift said.
“We appreciate the support from parents, students and staff for the AAPS Super Six containment strategies and are encouraged that many elementary school students are being vaccinated now,” said Swift. “However, the continued spike in COVID-19 cases in our schools and the high rate of transmission in the Ann Arbor community are having a direct impact on our students and staff and efforts to keep our schools fully occupied every day.”
AAPS is the second Washtenaw County’s school district to cancel school in advance of the Thanksgiving break.
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