Atlanta Public Schools teams to play on despite move to online learning

Atlanta Public Schools’ plan to conduct virtual learning this fall won’t keep the city’s 11 high schools from having sports, APS Athletic Director Jasper Jewell said Friday evening.

“As it stands, we’re still on,’’ Jewell said. “We’re going to hold practices after school hours just as if they were still in class. They’re still enrolled and still getting grades, so they will still be eligible by GHSA standards.’’

APS Superintendent Lisa Herring will present a plan Monday to do virtual learning for the first nine weeks of the academic year or until the threat of COVID-19 has subsided. The school board must approve the proposal.

Jewell, also a member of the Georgia High School Association’s board of trustees, said sports were vital to the well being of his district’s schools.

“In an inner-city situation, athletics and the arts for some of our kids, that’s their only way out,’’ Jewell said. “So we want to make sure they get a good academic base with the online learning but also extend that learning opportunity to athletics and arts.’’

In anticipating the possibility of virtual classes, Jewell has worked with the district’s director of transportation to have activity buses lined up to transport student athletes to and from their schools for practices. He’s also planning to have pre- or post-practice meals available for student athletes.

Atlanta’s sports teams started summer conditioning June 15 and have had few COVID-related interruptions, Jewell said.

“The beautiful thing about sports is it’s a situation where it’s totally up to the parent or student athlete to participate,’’ Jewell said. “It’s not something you’re mandated to do. So if a parent is comfortable enough to have their child participate in athletics, we want to give them every opportunity to be successful.’’

Ten APS schools play football. They are B.E.S.T. Academy, Carver, Douglass, Grady, Maynard Jackson, Mays, North Atlanta, South Atlanta, Therrell and Washington. Coretta Scott King Academy, an all-girls school, participates in the other fall sports, which are cross country, softball, volleyball and cheerleading.

The first date that football teams can hold mandatory practices are July 27. For the other fall sports, it’s Aug. 1.

APS would be the first district to announce a move to online-only learning in the fall. Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett schools have said they will offer students the alternative of online learning but keep buildings open for classes.