APS reveals potential reopening strategy for second semester

In+a+meeting+on+Dec.+3%2C+Atlanta+Public+Schools+Superintendent+Dr.+Lisa+Herring+announced+that+it+is+undecided+if+schools+will+reopen+in+Jan.+2021+at+a+Dec.+3+meeting.+However%2C+Dr.+Herring+affirmed+her+intention+to+reopen+schools+and+proposed+guidelines+for+reopening.+The+district+will+closely+monitor+Covid+cases+in+Georgia+to+then+make+a+decision+on+whether+to+open+in+Jan.+2021.

Lindsay Ruhl

In a meeting on Dec. 3, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring announced that it is undecided if schools will reopen in Jan. 2021 at a Dec. 3 meeting. However, Dr. Herring affirmed her intention to reopen schools and proposed guidelines for reopening. The district will closely monitor Covid cases in Georgia to then make a decision on whether to open in Jan. 2021.

Lindsay Ruhl

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring announced that it is undecided if schools will reopen in Jan. 2021 at a Dec. 3 meeting. However, Dr. Herring affirmed her intention to reopen schools and proposed guidelines for reopening.

The same three reopening options remain: virtual, in-person and Atlanta Virtual Academy (AVA). Parents will be able to complete a survey, available Dec. 3 to 21, with their preferred option.

“On the survey, you can change your mind multiple times if that’s the case,” Dr. Herring said. “If you don’t complete the survey at all, you default to being virtual. All of us will make certain that that declaration gets completed so that we can make the best decisions possible for safety.”

If more than 60 percent of the students at a school decide to go back, principals will be able to change and adjust the instructional delivery model to fit the expectations around health and safety risks.

“This means the school at that high level would more than likely have to consider a hybrid model in order to ensure that children are safe,” Dr. Herring said. “It is also important to note that, from the data back in October, close to 90 percent of our schools were under 60 percent [in terms of how many students voted to return face-to-face].”

Junior Zephy Schroder disagrees with the district’s plan.

“I do not think that Atlanta Public Schools should return to face to face learning in the early months of 2021,” Schroeder said. “I believe that we are so close to having a vaccine, and it is the more responsible choice to wait until that vaccine has come out and then mandate it before students can enter the building.”

Various factors will be implemented to ensure the safety of face-to-face learning. These include mandatory mask wearing, sanitization stations, daily cleaning protocols and daily temperature screenings. APS has also invested $68 million to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in school buildings. The buildings will be cleaned twice a day and deep cleaned on Wednesdays, when students will be asynchronously learning at home.

All teachers will return to school on Jan. 19 while still teaching virtually. If the district decides to reopen in Jan. 2021, students in Pre-K through second grade and those in the special education program who opt to return face-to-face will return on Jan. 25. Grades third through fifth and grades sixth, ninth, and tenth will return Feb. 1, The remaining grades will return on Feb. 4.

“In those windows, we will have a couple weeks to not only assess what status we’re in as it relates to Covid across our city and state, but we will also have the opportunity for our teachers to be in the building before our students,” Dr. Herring said. “This gives our teachers a chance to not only get acclimated but also to get them back into the school before our students.”

Should there be a surge of Covid cases surge during in-person learning, public health professionals will evaluate the situation, and based on their recommendation, APS will make the decision as to whether school will close.

“An outbreak is defined as two or more cases in a school that are epidemiologically linked,” Dr. Katika Lovett, assistant superintendent of student services, said. “In other words, there’s a connection between the cases, and we start to see kind of the growing spread happening in a school. If that is the case, we have to work very closely with our local boards of health.”

Schroeder believes that APS should mandate the Covid vaccine.

“I think if we mandate the vaccine before you enter the building, then the number of students returning would be higher because they would feel safer and more comfortable in their environments,” Schroeder said.

During face-to-face learning, students will have their computers with them in the classroom and will also participate in safe hands-on learning.

“We also have to be very careful around that level of engagement with hands-on manipulatives or hands-on activities because of safety,” Dr. Herring said. “Instructions for students who participate in face-to-face learning will consist of hands-on activities paired with direct instruction. Computers may be used to support specific instructional activities, but will not be the primary mode of Instructional delivery.”

The way school will be run in face-to-face learning leaves students concerned.

“I don’t personally see the advantages of doing online school again just in a different environment,” Schroder says.

Junior Alaya Foote agrees with Schroeder.

“So I’m all for going back to school as long as they have a really good structure on how they’re going to space us out,” Foote said. “I really thought what they were trying to do with the computers in each room and everyone in separate rooms was really pointless because my whole point was going back to school was to be an environment where I could focus and have teachers to help me there without pressing mute and unmute or whatever and having to go through that pressure.

The district will closely monitor Covid cases in Georgia to then make a decision on whether to open in Jan. 2021.

“It is our intent to reopen in January,” Dr. Herring said. “I say that noting that we all have the continued responsibility to monitor community spread. As we’re doing that, and as I’ve asked health experts around the importance of communicating to you a specific metric, what I’ve been encouraged and directed to help emphasize is our ability to effectively mitigate your safety and health risks.”

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