ATLANTA - Parents, teachers, and students that are part of Atlanta Public Schools learned more about the district’s reopening plans for the next semester on Thursday evening.
A virtual town hall meeting was held on the school district’s Facebook page. Students in Atlanta have been virtual all of the fall semester and now parents have the choice to send them back to the classroom.
APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said schools will reopen for in-person learning starting in January. She spoke to the virtual town hall, which had more than 2,000 people watching at one point, outlining the district's plan that emphasized three key points: protect, plan, and process.
“It is our intent to look at a January reopening,” Herring told those who tuned into the hour-long virtual presentation.
“Why reopen in January? Why is that part of the discussion? Different circumstances than in October exist for us,” Herring explained.
Herring assured stakeholders her office is in constant contact with health care professionals and, at this point, feels confident in in-person learning for parents who choose to select the option.
“I do think about, every day, the risk and wellbeing, for how our children are not being served if we are not reopened,” Herring told parents.
Teachers will return to the classroom on January 19 while students will have a staggered start date.
Pre-K through second grade and special education students will be the first to return on January 25.
Grades three through five, six, nine, and 10 are next to go in on Feb 1.
Grades seven, eight, eleven, and twelve will be the last to transition in starting February 4.
And for parents not comfortable sending children back to the classroom yet, those students can still learn online.
“Virtual will remain. We have to keep virtual in place. For some, it’s been highly successful. For others, it’s been the greatest challenge,” Herring said, adding there are other resources being made available as well.
“If you are a part of APS student, teacher, or staff family and you have symptoms then testing is available,” Herring continued, also stating schools will be deep cleaned at least once a week and as needed.
“From an operations standpoint, we have invested $68 million to make sure our HVACs are strong. It’s not just an investment but it’s work that’s been done,” she said.
The superintendent admitted there’s no way to predict where the country will be next month but said she focused on providing quality education.
“Parents you have a heavy decision to make,” she added.
Thaya Wheatt has three children in Atlanta Public Schools, a high school senior, a second-grader, and a first-grader, so she knows a lot about virtual learning. Plus, she's a public school teacher who's learned to manage to teach elementary students while helping her own. She said it has been difficult. She is scared and nervous about her children going back to the classroom.
“It's very difficult to tell people not to travel, so to send our people...that's pretty hard,” said Wheatt.
Emily Graney has a kindergartner in APS. He had the opportunity to go to school for a few hours this week. She said it was a wonderful experience. It's why she hopes APS officials will provide more options for parents who want to send their children back to the classroom next semester.
In-person classes haven't been held since March, more than 250 days for most students. They said they are very disappointing and frustrating as a parent.
The deadline to submit the form for their child to return is Dec. 21. Those who do not sign up for in-person classes will be rolled over automatically into continued virtual learning.
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