Atlanta Public School students return to class with new COVID-19 procedures

It's the Atlanta Public School District's turn Thursday to put its COVID-19 protocols to the test.

More than 50,000 students with Atlanta Public Schools will be walking back into their classrooms Thursday morning.

Like many other school districts, handling rising COVID-19 numbers is at the top of their to-do list. Leaders are juggling the excitement of getting back while handling surging cases in the area.

"We've taken into consideration that first and foremost there's a natural expectation of a little anxiety and apprehensiveness from everyone, so we're understanding of that," APS Superintendent Lisa Herring said.

Herring said the school district has been focused on the best strategies to handle the virus this school year. That includes a mask mandate for students and staff in all buildings and on busses.

"We will also be doing surveillance testing every week. We launched that last semester we had it throughout the summer," she said. "We will continue so that at each school every week there's an opportunity to be tested on top of the other mitigation strategies that are in place,"

On top of those tests, there will be daily health and wellness check-ins for students and a continued push to get eligible students and staff members vaccinated.

As of Thursday, the district is reporting 18% of eligible students and around 58% of employees report being vaccinated. To increase those numbers, the district is offering vaccines as part of a partnership with the Fulton County Board of Health.

Herring says the district's biggest goal as school gets started is addressing students' social and academic needs.

"As we start this school year, we've been intentional about a schedule that allows more time for academic interventions," she said.

The district will be assessing students in literacy and math to help them get caught up, but it will also be looking at students' mental and emotional wellness.

It also onboarded more school psychologists and social workers to help this school year.

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