August 27, 2020

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This week

Tensions are running high in anticipation of the start of the school year. Parents are anxious about how their children will adapt to online learning, and wonder what expectations are realistic when much of that learning may be unsupervised. Many college students are eagerly returning to friends and campus life, where their parents and professors are terrified the virus will spread like wildfire.

With the football season canceled, small businesses are already bracing for a lean year. If Covid causes campuses to close, what will become of student-dependent shops and restaurants?  Even amid the uncertainties new businesses continue to open, and Ann Arbor’s street life is as alive as it has ever been.

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

 In the News

U-M professors, staff, and grad students hold protests over in-person classes. On August 19, about sixty people gathered outside the Fleming Administration Building to protest the university’s reopening plan. Information prof Kentaro Toyama organized the protests when the university failed to respond to his open letter requesting a detailed explanation of its Covid-19 containment and contingency plans. The protesters also demanded that graduate students be allowed to opt out of in-person teaching and called for expanded on-campus Covid testing. Michigan Daily. 

U-M and Ann Arbor police team up to enforce party violations. City Council issued an ordinance to limit outside gatherings to 25 people, inside gatherings to 10 people, and require face masks indoors in public places and outdoors where social distancing is impossible. Officers and community volunteers will patrol campus and near-campus neighborhoods noon to midnight every day from August 20 to 30, and Thursday to Saturday for the rest of the semester to “serve as a visible presence and reminder to students and other community members of the need to follow public health guidance.” Fines of up to $250 are being issued to individuals who violate the rule. U-M created a hotline for community health concerns: (734) 647-3000.

EMU delays on-campus move-in by three weeks, until September 17. Online classes will begin on August 31, and in-person classes on September 20. According to an August 24 statement by EMU president James Smith, the delay is based on “an assessment of the reopening of campuses across the country that has shown increased outbreaks of COVID-19 among students and challenges in limiting social gatherings and parties.” 

Students “do not want to be living with their parents” and are returning to Ann Arbor rentals, according to Alice Ehn, executive director of the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association. She says her members have experienced “very few” students asking to get out of their leases. 

Black student files a complaint of racial discrimination against Pioneer High School. A sixteen-year old girl represented by the U-M law school’s Civil Rights Litigation Initiative filed the complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, alleging that she and other black students at the school were targets of racial discrimination, including unequal disciplinary actions, denial of certain educational opportunities, and being required to play a competitive online game whose objective was to win the most slaves. “We would like them to hire an external civil rights organization to investigate the educational environment at Pioneer and to make recommendations that would make the environment more equitable for all students, regardless of their skin color,” CRLI student attorney Liza Davis said. Detroit News. 


Several downtown shops and restaurants have reopened as Ann Arbor gears up for the start of the fall semester, including the Pretzel Bell, Ten Thousand Villages, and Amadeus

Chapala Mexican Restaurant and Bar replaced Agave Tequila Bar on N. Main. Owner Cesar Ochoa says he’s aiming to be informal and affordable, with a focus on seafood. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story. 

Blue Front has new management, new business plan. The historic south campus storefront had grand reopening on Friday. New owner Robert Vogt IV says his goal is to shift the Blue Front away from the high-end wine and beer store it had become, and go back to its roots as an inexpensive corner store. The Observer’s Micheline Maynard has our story. 
May Mobility, a global developer of autonomous shuttles, plans to expand in Ann Arbor with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund. The project is expected to create 100 high-paying, high-tech jobs. May Mobility.

Three Ypsilanti business owners launched the Association of Businesses of Color (ABC), open to all Washtenaw County business owners of color. Co-founder Ylandia Portis says many minority business owners miss out on opportunities like grant funding simply because they don’t know they exist. “I believe part of it is the lack of being plugged into those opportunities that are available," Portis says, so ABC will provide information and networking opportunities. Concentrate.


Thursday: Listen online to East Coast-based ayurvedic practitioner and writer Kate O’Donnell discuss how to incorporate ayurvedic practices into your daily life , co-hosted by Nicola's Books (7 p.m.). 

Friday: Learn how to make a DIY screen printed image using an embroidery hoop, nylons, and glue (3–3:30 p.m.) in a virtual demo led by an Ann Arbor District Library staffer.

Saturday: Watch locally produced short films featured in Cinetopia Film Festival’s “A2 Tech Film Showcase” (all day). Also, for kids ages 7–12, learn about tree identification in County Farm Park (10:30 a.m.).
See the Observer’s online calendar for more information about local events.

The Helpers

By Ella Bourland

Mentor 2 Youth’s new director Darryl Johnson and his team used quarantine as a chance to reflect on their Ypsilanti-based nonprofit‘s mission to close the racial and class opportunity gap through community collaboration, parent involvement, and youth programs that help develop civic, financial, academic, and emotional intelligence. 

“One of the things that this virtual period showed us is that we are too dependent on the physical experience of working with kids,” Johnson says. So rather than waiting for schools to ask for help with a student, they’ve developed new virtual programs such as the Parent Village, offering Mentor 2 Youth-developed curriculum, tutors, and more. Johnson thinks that proactive community-wide efforts will not only have a greater impact on the home environment for kids, but will also help build organization amongst the parents so that they can act as an entity to address underlying gaps in our community. 
Earlier this month, Darryl Johnson (above) took over for founder Emmanuel Jones in directing Mentor 2 Youth. Photo: Moremi Akinde. 
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