ANN ARBOR, MI – School administrators have signed a joint letter with the Washtenaw County Health Department urging the broader community to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19 so children can get back to face-to-face learning.
The letter was signed by the leaders of 29 public, charter, private and independent schools across Washtenaw County.
“As we return to face-to-face instruction, we want to be sure we are prioritizing the health and safety of our students, families, and staff,” Washtenaw Intermediate School District Interim Superintendent Naomi Norman said in a news release. “With over 50,000 students and 15,000 staff across our schools, health and safety is of utmost importance.
“When schools need to unexpectedly transition from open to closed to open again due to positive COVID-19 cases, it puts a burden on students, families, staff and our broader community. We are taking safety very seriously by providing remote options and enacting strict protocols within our schools, but bringing students back is dependent on how well we can collectively adhere to the recommended safety protocols.”
Washtenaw County schools and the health department officials said they have been working together to closely monitor COVID-19 trends, data, and best practices locally and regionally, as well as monitoring situations at schools across the state that have returned to full, in-person instruction.
Some county schools, such as Manchester Community Schools, Whitmore Lake Public Schools, Milan Area Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools, started the year with at least some students attending in-person classes. Other districts, such as Saline Area Schools, Dexter Community Schools and Chelsea School District, have just started to bring students back through a hybrid learning format.
While Ann Arbor Public Schools remain in a remote learning mode for now, the district has established metrics the community must meet for students to return to the classroom. Metrics are based on the number of new coronavirus cases, the number of cases per 100,000 or 1 million residents and the COVID-19 testing positivity rate.
Positive COVID-19 cases have been reported locally at Saline Area Schools and Whitmore Lake Public Schools, with Whitmore Lake transitioning to remote learning twice in the past week after cases were identified.
COVID-19 outbreaks at schools across the state and in communities have forced classrooms or athletic teams to quarantine, sometimes resulting in entire schools temporarily closing and transitioning to remote learning, Washtenaw County Health Department Health Officer Jimena Loveluck said.
“We’re asking everyone in Washtenaw County to do their part to keep the spread of illness low,” Loveluck said. “We know consistent use of face coverings, distancing, hand cleaning and full cooperation with health officials slows the spread of illness and prevents additional cases. With continued cooperation, we can continue doing things we love as safely as possible and keeping in mind that COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities.”
The joint letter asks the community to do what it takes to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by getting a flu vaccine, wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, monitoring symptoms if they are feeling under the weather and cooperating with case investigations and contact tracing.
“Remember the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to circulate locally,” the letter states. “Cases can and do occur. Cooperating with public health guidance is the best way for us to stop any additional spread once a case has been identified. This means responding promptly to school and health officials and answering questions honestly – to protect everyone’s health.”
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