“Unnecessary and Unconscionable”: An Update on AAPS’ Decision to Remove Before and After School Childcare

child care
Image courtesy of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Facebook.

Out of the 65 submitted public commentaries for the May 19 Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education general meeting, only six did not explicitly mention the cancellation of before and after school child care/school-age child care program. 

Locals Thoughts on Canceling Before and After School Care Programs

“AAPS’s apparent decision to suspend child care before and after school for the 2021-22 school year is both unnecessary and unconscionable. After more than a full year without in-person school, AAPS should be looking for ways to restore trust in the community and get us back to normal. Instead, AAPS has signaled loud and clear — yet again — that the concerns of parents and their kids don’t matter. It is especially galling to hear this decision defended in the name of equity, when it is those very parents who are least able to spare workday hours to care for their children who will suffer most,” Nicholas Bagley wrote in a public commentary

“Without the before and after school programs many parents will have no choice but to turn their children into latchkey kids. I was terrified of being home alone but knew that we didn’t have a choice. AAPS has a choice to resume the program next year with Covid protocols, the programs can adapt. Kids need it as much as parents,” Shannon Brooks-Lehnert said

“I am a junior at Community [high school] who attended after-school care for 3 years in an AAPS elementary school. I was not only disappointed, but I was also angry when I heard of plans to suspend the program. […] For a school district that talks so much about being equitable, I think continuing this program is especially important to live up to those ideals. Suspending it is not only going to harm students, but it will also disrupt hundreds of parents’ careers and affect low-income families the most.” Mira Schwartz comments

None of the comments that mentioned the cancellation of childcare praised the decision.

The Importance of Before and After School Child Care Programs

The commentary came from many members of the community including parents who use the service, parents who previously used the service, students who used the service, and other concerned AAPS general public. 

During the previous BOE general meeting held on May 12, AAPS superintendent Jeanice Swift announced the cancellation of all after and before school care for the 2021-2022 year. The program is to undergo a redesign during the upcoming school year. This is to ensure COVID-19 safety and equity for elementary school children. 

As a result of this announcement, parents and community members signed a petition on the importance of this child care and sent it to Ann Arbor Public Schools. The petition received over 1,100 signatures. Since the petition’s beginnings, attorney and AAPS parent David Hannon has filed legal action against the AAPS Board of Education. According to MLive, the injunction filed by Hannon asks that AAPS overturn the decision to stop childcare and to release to the public “all materials, information and advice received from February 2020 to the present on child care, in-person instruction and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The lawsuit claims that the board was not in accordance with the Open Meetings Act which states “all local charter provisions, ordinances, or resolutions which relate to requirements for meetings of local public bodies to be open to the public.” In essence, Hannon’s legal action states that the public should be aware of the options for a decision that affects many members of the community before a finalized agreement is made.

As of Now

The hearing was held in Washtenaw County’s 22nd circuit court on August 11, where judicial officer Carol Kuhnke held Hannon’s request for a preliminary injunction. While AAPS has yet to publicly comment on the decision, changes will need to be made.

As of Aug. 16, parents can sign their students up for after-school Rec & Ed classes with most classes ending at 5:30pm. There are classes at most elementary schools, online classes, and sports offerings.  There are no clear listings for before-school programs from Rec & Ed.