Ann Arbor Public Schools has grappled with staff shortages throughout 2022, with many teachers and bus drivers calling in sick or taking leave to tend to relatives sick with COVID-19. Ann Arbor, like the rest of the country, saw a surge of the omicron variant from last winter. As a result, the school district announced at the end of last year that the first week of class would be fully remote.
On Jan. 10, AAPS announced 20 bus routes would be temporarily suspended as the school district scrambled to address the driver shortages. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, AAPS superintendent Jeanice Swift said the district is struggling more to fill operational staff vacancies than instructional ones.
“Teachers and counselor teams are running 10-15% absences above normal, but we are able to cover most of these shortages in recent weeks,” Swift said. “However, our operation staff team continued to struggle. (The) transportation team, (the) food and nutrition team and the custodial team continued to have a 20-30% shortage.”
During a Board of Education meeting last Wednesday, parents and students raised concerns about the impact the shortages might have on their ability to get to school on time.
Pioneer High School junior Aaron J. Puno, a staff writer for The Pioneer Optimist, also attended the board meeting. He said while high school students have more options than their parents or the bus, deficient public transit takes away a valuable transportation option for many high schoolers.
“I know a guy who has to show up a great deal earlier and he will have to wait around Pioneer for another half an hour, due to the cut (in TheRide) services,” Puno said.
Parents and teachers also criticized the school district’s strategy of depending on substitute hiring to alleviate teacher shortages. Theresa Maglothin, an AAPS science teacher, submitted a comment to the board emphasizing the importance of fair pay and teacher retention.
“The district has continued to hire teachers with less experience at higher (salaries)than those of us who have stood by the district for years,” Maglothin wrote. “Teachers are leaving mid-year in record numbers. I can assure you that many more will leave this summer if the pay inequities are not addressed.”
Swift told The Daily AAPS’ immediate focus is restoring bus service and making sure all students can get to school.
“For (the week of Jan. 31), we will be having 81 out of 96 routes fully operated,” Swift said. “So we will be running 84% of our previous routes. We want anyone who is feeling well to be able to physically be in school.”
Daily Staff Reporter Chen Lyu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.