Nearly 2,000 Atlanta students ask to move to virtual classes

Atlanta Public Schools is recruiting teachers to join its virtual program. (Jenni Girtman/AJC FILE PHOTO)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Atlanta Public Schools is recruiting teachers to join its virtual program. (Jenni Girtman/AJC FILE PHOTO)

Nearly 2,000 Atlanta students requested to switch to online learning for the second semester that begins in January.

Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Seth Coleman said 1,954 students applied for spots in Atlanta Virtual Academy. The district previously warned parents it may need to hold a lottery to determine which students would be admitted if there weren’t enough teachers to accommodate all the students who wished to move from in-person to virtual learning.

But now officials say that won’t be necessary. The district will be able to offer a place in the virtual program to all the students who applied by the October deadline, said Coleman in a recent email.

”At this time we have four teacher vacancies. All teacher vacancies are projected to be filled,” he said.

APS launched several initiatives aimed at recruiting instructors for the expanded online program.

Earlier this month, the school board agreed to pay the staffing agency Stride Learning Solutions up to $2.5 million to provide virtual teachers. Skye Duckett, chief human resources officer, said after the board’s vote that she didn’t expect APS will need to spend the full amount authorized under the contract.

She said it’s intended to be a back-up plan in case the district can’t hire enough teachers through other methods.

To help with the mid-year hiring push, APS previously announced it will pay teachers a $3,000 bonus. The district’s teacher salary ranges from $49,048 to $96,830, depending on years of experience and educational degrees.

The district started classes in August with about 680 online students.

In the early weeks of the school year, COVID-19 cases surged and more families began requesting a virtual option. APS officials announced in September that they would reopen online enrollment for the second semester.

COVID-19 cases have since fallen, with the district reporting 47 staff and student cases for the week ending Nov. 12. That’s down from a high of more than 400 cases for the week that ended Aug. 27.