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Union for Ann Arbor teachers says face-to-face teaching is "not safe"


The union representing teachers at Ann Arbor Public Schools says it's not safe to return to in-person instruction.

In a Facebook post, the Ann Arbor Education Association is demanding that school be online only in the fall.  

Union leaders say many things would have to be in place before teachers are willing to teach inside school buildings, including a 14 day period of time in which there are no new COVID-19 cases in Washtenaw County. 

County health officials are tracking dozens of cases that arose from a single Fourth of July party in Saline, which is in the county. Cases are also increasing in many other regions of the state.

It's not clear if the district will try to force teachers back. State law fines teachers for striking, but there is also legal precedent for allowing teachers to refuse to work if their health and safety are being put at risk. 

Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift is not commenting on what the district will do if large numbers of teachers fail to return to school buildings to teach on August 31, the first day of school in the district.

She says the plan the district is working on will involve collaboration with groups such as teachers.  

Swift says the district's final plan will be released at the end of July, which gives parents about a month to make choices and arrangements for their children.  

The plan is likely to offer parents a completely online experience for their children, as well as a hybrid version of two or three days of in-person instruction, and online instruction for the other days.

Ann Arbor teachers are not the only ones who say it is not safe to return to in-person classes.  Terrence Martin, President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, weighed in after the district's board approved an in-person return to school plan late Tuesday, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported.

“If it’s not safe, we won’t be there," said Martin. "Not only will we not be there, it’s not safe for children to be there.”