Thanksgiving break extended due to staffing challenges and current rise in COVID-19 cases


Ridhima L. Kodali

Room 4203 pictured above. AAPS will be holding vaccination clinics throught the rest of this month

Ridhima L. Kodali, Managing Editor

Today, Nov. 17 at 7:36 p.m., Superintendent Jeanice Swift sent out an email communication informing AAPS staff and students that there will be an extended Thanksgiving break with both Monday Nov. 22 and Tuesday Nov. 23 off. 

“We take these school closure decisions very seriously,” the communication read. “I understand that this week-before notice will pose challenges for some of our families, and I sincerely apologize for this situation. We have worked over previous days to ensure that we have pursued every option available to safely open our schools on these days.”

Michigan school districts  are allowed up to six days of school closures and with Monday and Tuesday off next week, AAPS maintains three district closures out of 58 school days so far.

“We will continue to monitor this situation very closely every day,” Swift said. “If needed, we will take appropriate steps as necessary to achieve the statutorily-required full school year for our students and staff during this 2021-2022 school year.”

This school closure decision was based on the current rise in COVID-19 cases among staff and students, especially in the last three weeks, as well as the staffing challenges throughout the district. 

Swift observed a spike in cases amidst AAPS staff, parents and contractors since Nov. 12. Cases have been spread across the district affecting classrooms, transportations, food services and custodial services. 

“We appreciate the parent, student and staff support for the AAPS Super Six mitigation strategies [public health protocols, ventilation upgrades, universal masking, physical distancing, cohorting and cleaning and signage] and are encouraged that many elementary students are now getting vaccinated,” Swift wrote.  “However, continued increases in COVID-19 cases across our schools and high levels of community transmission in Ann Arbor directly impact our students and staff directly and the effort to fully staff our schools each day.”

According to the AAPS COVID-19 case dashboard, there were 47 COVID-19 cases.  Thirty-eight students were positive for COVID-19 last week, eight staff members and one non-school based adult and contractor. 

There have been 367  COVID cases so far in the semester;  131 of those cases are from high schools. With the MDHHS, AAPS will be hosting another vaccination event next Tuesday, Nov. 23 at Pioneer High School. 

“We are encouraged that with the recent availability of vaccines for students 5 to 11 years of age and the high rates of vaccination we are seeing with our 12 to 18-year-old students, combined with a highly-vaccinated AAPS staff, that we will turn the corner and move past this challenging fall and winter season. We also strongly urge staff and everyone in our Ann Arbor community to get their booster shots as soon as possible.”

The email read that during Thanksgiving break the availability for substitute teachers and staff generally becomes lower. In fact, AAPS has increased their pay rate twice for longterm and daily substitute teachers this semester to “incentivize a struggling and shallow labor pool.” Swift warns the AAPS community  that staffing challenges will continue to occur for the remainder of the week. 

“At this time, however, we also remain concerned with this current COVID surge and the health and safety of our students and staff,” Swift wrote. “Thank you to our students, teachers, school teams, parents and community for working incredibly hard together and making sacrifices every day to help keep our schools open this fall. We are stronger when we work together, and together, we are making solid progress.”

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