Thanksgiving break extended by two days due to continued staffing shortages and COVID cases

In an email sent out tonight, Nov. 17, Superintendent Swift announced that Thanksgiving break will be extended by canceling school on Monday, Nov. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 23.

The announcement comes after a continued increase in staff and student COVID-19 cases that have led to staffing shortages across the district. 

This increase in AAPS cases impacts every area of district operations: classrooms and schools, transportation, food service and custodial,” said Swift. “This situation is a direct reflection of the COVID case surge in our Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County community and across Michigan.”

The two canceled days will mark three district closures following the school closures on Nov. 1 due to similar reasons regarding COVID cases and staff shortages. Michigan school districts are allowed six days of school closure each year. In the case that the limit for closures is surpassed, districts may be required to compensate for the lost number of school days. Specific plans on achieving the requirements have not been released.

“(The closures) might affect how long we’re in school in the long-run,” said Pioneer senior Halina Nguyen. “As a senior, I want school to be over with honestly.”

Despite the relief from the extra two days of break, additional concerns arise. “For me, I think it’s a great benefit, but I’m sure for a lot of people who need school lunches and things like that, need to be at school,” said Nguyen.

Even though many students believe that school closures are necessary to combat the rising COVID cases, they have also noted how the class curriculum could be affected.

“I think one concern is that a lot of teachers aren’t getting a lot of content done. Especially for AP classes, teachers getting two days off is one thing, but it could all stack up,” said Christian Kang, also a senior at Pioneer. 

To alleviate staff shortages, AAPS has increased their daily and long-term substitute pay rates twice over the fall semester. 

“I’ve seen a lot more substitutes coming in. I had a sub who said he was getting more job opportunities because there were more teachers having days off,” said Kang. “There’s not a lot the district can do with this besides closing down schools. I’m sure there’s a demand for teachers, but there are only so many people who are willing to come in during COVID and willing to put up with COVID protocols and stuff like that.”

Swift says the challenges with staffing will continue to persist, as holiday weeks like Thanksgiving normally experience lower substitute availability for teachers and staff. 

Several teams have stepped in or adjusted their services in accordance with shortages extending beyond teachers and substitutes. 

“Please be aware that during this Thursday and Friday, intermittent service gaps with transportation as well as food and nutrition may occur,” said Swift. “AAPS Durham transportation team managers continue to help by driving buses, and many drivers are doubling up to assist with additional routes. AAPS’ Chartwells food and nutrition team has arranged for staff from other parts of their organization to mobilize into our AAPS schools to support us through the remainder of this week. Members of our AAPS team from across the organization are pitching in to ensure our schools are as well-staffed as possible.” 

Swift says that vaccinations including booster shots remain the most effective tool in combating future school COVID cases. AAPS will offer a student and family vaccination event next Tuesday, Nov. 23 in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Registration will be required in advance and can be completed through a Google form.