10.16 Atlanta Public Schools Will Delay Return to Face-to-Face Instruction

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Seth Coleman, Media Relations Manager
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                     

October 16, 2020


Atlanta Public Schools Will Delay Return to Face-to-Face Instruction


District’s commitment to providing students a high-quality education has not changed


Atlanta -- Atlanta Public Schools (APS) announced today that the District will postpone all reopening plans for in-person learning until January 2021. APS will continue with the current virtual model until at least until that time. The decision comes after the District’s continued monitoring and tracking of COVID-19  health data that is trending unfavorably, consultation with public health officials and healthcare experts, and data secured to determine both feasibility and stakeholder feedback.


“The decision to further delay the in-person opening of our schools was difficult,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring. “But after consulting with our teachers, staff, students, families, and public health officials, I decided this is the right approach at this time.”


The District will proceed with providing monthly health data checkpoints and present the next update at the November 2 Board meeting.  APS will also continue to explore ways to support the District’s most vulnerable learners, particularly low-incidence special needs population and the youngest students, including their potential return to some in-person services prior to January 2021.


APS will continue to look forward to a phased approach for a return to face-to-face teaching and learning that will remain rooted in COVID-19 health data for the community. 


Role of Public Health Data

APS monitors, on a daily basis, the COVID-19 data published by the Georgia Department of Public Health at this link: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report. That daily report contains levels of community transmission over 14 days, the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and percent of positive tests by county. Despite downward trends in recent weeks, our community has seen recent increases in new cases, resulting in a current average that exceeds 130 new cases per 100,000 county residents. That number leaves us in substantial spread of COVID-19 and unable to reopen to in-person instruction.


While the community transmission data is the leading metric utilized to inform our instructional models, it is not the only data considered by the District. As was shared in the District’s October 5, 2020, Board presentation, local COVID-19 data from the City of Atlanta, and epidemiology reports from local boards of health (Fulton and DeKalb) also greatly impact this decision. 


The specific information the District refers to for decision making is based on the information included on the maps from GA Department of Public Health (https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report) entitled “COVID-19 by County”. When hovering over the individual counties, our team locates the levels of community transmission/spread which is denoted as the “cases per 100K (last two weeks)” and includes the 14-day incidence rate of new diagnoses.


Results of Intent to Return Declaration Form

The District sent the Intent to Return Declaration Form to 38,397 students, which represents the total PreK-12 enrollment of all traditional APS schools. Please note that this figure does not include charter and partner students, which represents an additional 10,000+ students. Families of students at charter and partner schools did not participate in the intent to return process. More than 22,000 families (or 58%) submitted their forms by the deadline. Of those submitting the forms, 10,460 expressed their intent for their children to return to school if the District were to resume in-person instruction. That’s less than half the people who filled out the form.


There are three schools that had more than 60% of students declare their intent to return in person. All three of these schools were elementary schools in the North Atlanta cluster, Brandon, Jackson, and Smith. We had 16 schools where less than 20% of students declared their intent to return in person. As a cluster, North Atlanta had the highest percent of students declare in person with 42%, compared to the Mays cluster, with only 19%. The 16,200 families that did not return the forms were defaulted to site-based virtual instruction.


“There’s no question that this pandemic has affected our students and so many of us in different ways,” Dr. Herring said. “Our most vulnerable students have been hit hardest, which is why we have implemented more deliberate outreach efforts, including but not limited to daily phone calls directly to parents and guardians of students when they are not logged on or do not remain online throughout the school day; and at-home visits when students have not logged-in over a three-to-four day period of time or if staff are unable to contact parents of students who are consistently not remaining logged-in. In addition, we have followed through on the commitments we made this spring to distribute internet-connected devices to families across the district and partner with organizations that offer support for students who need them most.”


As the District continues its all-virtual instructional model, students have been logging on at an average rate of 95 percent each week.


“We are grateful for our passionate and dedicated teachers who have worked diligently since schools closed in the spring to meet the needs of every one of our students. We will continue to support every teacher in our district, enabling them to put their creativity to work to deliver engaging lessons that get our students excited to learn,” Dr. Herring said. “We remain focused on giving every APS student a high-quality education regardless of the instructional model. We want to encourage unity across our school community as we work collaboratively through this season of pandemic and continue to put our students first.”



About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 52,000 students across 87 schools. The District is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 58 traditional schools, 18 charter schools, six partner schools, two citywide single-gender academies and three alternative programs. To learn more about Atlanta Public Schools, follow us on social media – Twitter (@apsupdate), Facebook (Atlanta Public Schools), and Instagram (apsupdate) – or visit us online at www.atlantapublicschools.us.