Ann Arbor Reasonable Return, Inc. (A2R2) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that advocates for the needs of children in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. It began as a loosely affiliated group of parents working toward an evidence-based approach to reopening schools during the pandemic. These parents included educators, physicians, psychologists, nurses, lawyers, scientists, and public health professionals. From there, A2R2 grew into a nonprofit organization.
In pursuing these priorities, A2R2 advocates for decisions and policies that are transparent, evidence-based, informed by community and expert input, and sensitive to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We urge AAPS not to replace teachers, tutors, or other in-person educational experiences with technology or online devices.
Lilia is a psychology professor at the University of Michigan who has published widely on diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizations. She frequently submits public commentary for school board meetings, and her open schools advocacy has been covered in WEMU, MLive, and on the Substack of physician and health policy expert Vinay Prasad. In 2013, Lilia worked with AAPS to reopen the preschool programs at Allen and Thurston elementary schools; as part of that initiative, she helped the district restructure the programs to qualify for Great Start Readiness Program funding, enabling low-income children to attend free of charge. Lilia’s two children attend AAPS.
Shannon has a degree in communications and political science, and she has been an observer of local politics since 2018. In 2020, as her oldest child was set to begin kindergarten on Zoom, Shannon started live tweeting school board meetings. MLive later profiled Shannon’s family as they prepared for their child’s first day of in-person school in the spring of 2021. Shannon has spent much of the past two years calling and emailing city, county, and state representatives, advocating for better access to in-person school and childcare. Along the way, she invented the #A2schoolboard hashtag. Shannon’s youngest will start at AAPS this fall.
Kim is a pediatric hospitalist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. As a medical director and quality improvement lead for the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, she works to improve health care outcomes and reduce patient safety errors. Kim has published on the mental health effects of the pandemic on inpatients. She is part of the ABC Science Collaborative, a national program that pairs physicians and scientists with schools to help with evidence-based pandemic decision-making. Locally, Kim started advocating for school reopening in the fall of 2020. In 2021, she co-authored and coordinated a letter requesting that AAPS offer an in-person option for students. That letter garnered close to 400 signatures from local physicians and psychologists. Before working on opening schools, Kim advocated for AAPS to address their elevated lead levels in the drinking water. She co-authored a petition urging AAPS to follow the scientific recommendations on lead, which received more than 1,000 signatures. Her advocacy has been featured in WEMU, MLive, and Undark. Her three children attend AAPS.
Joanna is a physician-scientist who runs a neuroendocrinology laboratory at Michigan Medicine. She studies the neuroscience of stress and stress hormones and has published on the mental health outcomes of patients hospitalized with Covid. Joanna started advocating for open schools in August 2020, when her son was about to start first grade on Zoom. She later participated in the January rally. She also co-authored and coordinated a letter requesting that AAPS offer an in-person option for students. That letter garnered close to 400 signatures from local physicians and psychologists. Joanna has submitted public commentary to numerous board of education meetings, and she has organized conversations with political candidates to talk about the importance of in-person school. Both of her children will attend AAPS this fall.
No. But generally speaking, we encourage school districts to follow the advice of public health authorities (e.g., the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). We believe that public health authorities and medical experts should take the lead in determining how schools respond to public health emergencies.
No. A2R2 is non-partisan. We work on issues that cut across the political spectrum.
We follow scientific evidence, speak with experts, and listen to the community. A core principle is that in-person education is important for children. Our invaluable teachers cannot be replaced by devices. With the starting assumption that virtual school during a pandemic has possible harms and benefits, we form our positions based on scientific knowledge and our value of in-person school and teaching and then update them based on emerging evidence.
In February 2021, when A2R2 was still a loosely affiliated group of parents, we hosted a fundraiser to support efforts to reopen Ann Arbor Public Schools (which at that point had been closed for nearly a year). Hundreds of families responded, donating over $40,000 in two days. This offset various costs. For instance, it covered the formation of a legal entity to manage back-to-school advocacy efforts. It paid for Freedom of Information Act requests, used to bring transparency and accountability to the actions of AAPS leaders. It funded research into possible legal avenues for getting kids back in classrooms. These activities represent a fraction of the work undertaken by A2R2. Most of this work is powered by local volunteers--AAPS parents and other community members. They donate their time to advance the goals of restoring reliable in-person school and repairing harms of school closure in Ann Arbor. We have an amazing community and are grateful for their generosity.
No. In March 2021, Nicholas Bagley, a U-M law professor who now serves as chief legal counsel to Governor Whitmer, wrote an open letter to Michigan lawmakers. He urged them to adopt appropriations law that requires districts to provide full-time in-person school. Professor Bagley and another AAPS parent elaborated on the letter’s goals in a Detroit News op-ed. That article cited the known harms of protracted school closures. It advocated for a virtual option for families who wanted it, and noted that Governor Whitmer or her public health director could be given authority to close schools in response to health emergencies.
A2R2 did not play a role in drafting the letter. After it had been released by Professor Bagley, we supported and circulated it. The letter received well over a thousand signatures, many from Ann Arbor. The requirement for full-time in-person school was incorporated into HB 4411, a historic bipartisan funding bill signed by Governor Whitmer.