Ann Arbor Public Schools announced today that Pittsfield Elementary School will move to remote instruction the week of October 4, due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Pittsfield Elementary, located at 2543 Pittsfield Boulevard, serves about 250 students in grades K-5. AAPS says that the school will operate remotely through Friday, October 8.
While AAPS has reported a total of 8 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 20% of the school’s students have had close contact with students who tested positive for the virus and are quarantining. AAPS reported that 30% of Pittsfield students were absent on Friday, October 1. Absenteeism factored into the decision to close the school. In addition to moving to remote learning, AAPS also canceled the Extended Day Program there for the week. AAPS says it will provide the remote learning plan and information about planned food distribution on Monday.
Last week, AAPS converted a single classroom at Dicken Elementary to remote learning due to a COVID-19 outbreak there. AAPS made that decision mid-week.
COVID-19 outbreaks drive local school closures
This situation beautifully illustrates why institutions that can mandate the vaccine should do just that. Right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is largely unavailable to the student population at elementary schools like Dicken and Pittsfield. Converting to remote learning for a week (on short notice or mid-week) is disruptive to the community.
Not only that, but these schools also face enormous risk because their students cannot receive the vaccine. They are left fully at risk for high absenteeism, unexpected closures and last-minute shifts to remote learning. How many more times will AAPS need to close school buildings, cancel events and shift to remote operations because they cannot adequately protect a large portion of the population they serve from a COVID-19 outbreak?
It is a matter of responsible public policy to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone (faculty, staff, students) who will be on campus. Doing so protects WCC community members while they are on campus, but also limits their risk of serious disease and helps reduce community spread. Reducing community spread is essential because many WCC students work in “front line” jobs, where they deal with the public. Mandating the vaccine will extend COVID-19 protection to them in their homes and workplaces.
Eliminating community spread is essential right now because a large segment of Washtenaw County’s population is vaccine-ineligible. Community institutions (higher education institutions, hospitals, large employers, etc.) have a responsibility to do what they can to minimize community spread. That includes mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for in-person work and/or learning.
Photo Credit: Governor Tom Wolf , via Flickr