Ann Arbor Public School leaders announced a partnership Tuesday with Michigan Medicine and Integrated Health Associates to conduct mass vaccination events for Ann Arbor teachers this weekend.
Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift shared the news in a video posted to the school district website, calling the partnership “a game-changer.”
“Major vaccination events will take place this weekend in the Ann Arbor area to make significant progress on offering vaccines to Washtenaw County teachers and staff,” Swift said in the video. “Particular focus will be given to our staff connected to Phase 1 of the in-school hybrid option.”
Phase 1 of the AAPS plan includes students most in need of in-person instruction, such as those with disabilities and specialized needs, as well as pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.
Swift’s announcement comes one day before the school board is set to vote on whether to reopen schools in the district — operating fully remote since March 2020 — for in-person instruction. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called for school districts in Michigan to offer an option for in-person instruction by March 1.
AAPS announced last month that the district would remain virtual until after their February meeting due to slow vaccinations, a high COVID-19 risk level and the advent of the B.1.1.7. variant in Washtenaw County and has not announced a specific date for a return to in-person instruction.
Swift called out the county for its slow rollout of vaccines to educators in her Tuesday statement.
“Since the January announcement that K-12 educators would be eligible for vaccination, we have been disappointed that Washtenaw County has lagged behind other counties in achieving these critical goals,” Swift said. “This promising turn of events is the result of the advocacy work of many.”
Among the groups fighting for a return to in-person instruction is Ann Arbor Reasonable Return, whose petition to bring students back to classrooms has garnered more than 375 signatures as of Tuesday evening, including numerous professors and healthcare professionals at the University of Michigan.
A group AAPS parents and students also organized a protest on Jan. 31 to petition for a return to in-person school.
On Feb. 22, six Ann Arbor city council members and Mayor Christopher Taylor sent a letter to the AAPS Board of Education voicing their support for a return to a plan of how to return students to schools.
The Washtenaw County Health Department will provide the doses, with Michigan Medicine providing distribution support along with IHA and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. Michigan Medicine has had to stop its own first-dose vaccine appointments because the state has begun shifting vaccinations away from them.
The University has been criticized by some Ann Arbor residents, as continued high COVID-19 case numbers among University students have compelled AAPS to remain virtual in the 2020-21 school year. In a county health department press release Tuesday, Michigan Medicine CEO Marschall Runge said the University is glad to provide support to the vaccination events.
“We are committed to supporting the county in its efforts to vaccinate critical workers,” Runge’s statement reads. “Every shot counts as we work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic in our community. Michigan Medicine is happy to open up the Big House to tackle this health care crisis.”
Martha Walsh, chief quality and population health officer for IHA, said in the statement IHA is proud to support educators, especially considering many AAPS faculty members are IHA patients.
WCHD health officer Jimena Loveluck said in the statement the county is still struggling with limited doses, but they “look forward” to vaccinating teachers in pre-K and K-12 schools.
The AAPS Board of Education meets Wednesday at noon to vote on reopening schools before March 1. Public comments can be submitted here.
Daily Staff Reporter Dominic Coletti can be reached at email@example.com.
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