Superintendent outlines phase two reopening options


Aran Sonnad-Joshi

District Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring addresses stake holders at the virtual town hall meeting on Sept. 24.

Aran Sonnad-Joshi

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring has outlined three school reopening options that the school board will consider at its Oct. 5 meeting.

The district’s phase two reopening plans come as the number of coronavirus cases decreases in Fulton and Dekalb County, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“Over the past few months, we’ve seen numbers as high as almost 300 [new cases per 100,00 residents over a 14-day period], well over 200 and now we’re starting to see the numbers trend the other way,” APS Superintendent of Schools Dr. Katika Lovett said. “We’re very hopeful as we continue to see the decreases in the cases of new COVID diagnoses.”

Parents can choose from three models for their child or children for the remainder of the first semester.

One of three proposed models, the in-person model allows students to attend school during normal school hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, while staying home on Wednesdays. 

“This face-to-face model is best for students and families who feel comfortable returning to school for in-person instruction,” Chief of Schools Anita Williams said. “Students will attend physically during traditional school hours, and it’s best for students who were less successful with distance learning last spring.”

Dr. Herring announced revisions to the in-person model on Oct. 2 after detailing the three original models at a Sept. 24 town hall. Students up to fifth grade will be able to return to in-person learning on Oct. 26. Students in grades six through 12 can return on Nov. 16.

Schools will follow safety protocols, which include mandatory temperature screenings for teachers and daily sanitation of the building. Wednesdays and weekends will be used for deep-cleaning while students are at home. 

“Students and employees will be required to wear masks and PPE [personal protective equipment],” Williams said. “Students will be seated in a socially-distanced layout in the classroom, with all chairs, desks and other workstations three-to-six feet apart. All students and teachers will use their own instructional supplies and laptops and tablets.”

Under the site-based virtual model, students attend virtual classes every day of the week except for Wednesdays, which would be used for intervention or academic support for individual students. 

“This model is designed for families who do not feel comfortable sending their children back to school but ultimately plan to rejoin their enrolled school in the future,” Williams said. “Based on the number of parents who choose this option, the local school will work to provide virtual options for students.” 

Teachers will be given the option to continue working virtually. Those that choose to teach in the classroom setting will teach in-person and virtual students at the same time.

Finally, parents have the option to enroll their students in Atlanta Virtual Academy or Atlanta Virtual Academy Jr., which are online programs. The courses will be taught through self-paced virtual lessons, and students can meet with certified instructors daily.

“This is best for families who can commit to virtual learning for the remainder of the semester,” Williams said. “It is also best for students who work well and thrive in the virtual environment.”

“All of our proposed models are contingent upon public health data at the time,” Dr. Herring said. “If public health data trends unfavorably in our community, a full return to a full virtual model may be warranted at any time.”

Parents must complete the Intent to Return Declaration Form, which was distributed by APS on Sept. 28, by Oct. 15.

“We will always keep our students first and will continue to make their safety and health, as well as that of our staff a top priority,” Dr. Herring said.