Atlanta Public Schools recruiting teachers for virtual expansion

Atlanta Public Schools is trying to hire more teachers to ensure every student who wants to enroll in the district’s virtual program can make that switch.

Since mid-September, 1,649 APS students applied to move from in-person learning to Atlanta Virtual Academy for the second semester, which begins in January. Families have until Oct. 22 to apply for the virtual program.

Officials told the school board Monday that APS is launching a teacher recruitment effort with the aim of hiring enough teachers to serve all students interested in the program. But they acknowledged it will be difficult with the year already underway.

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“It’s going to be a mammoth task, but we are up for the challenge,” said Aleigha Henderson-Rosser, assistant superintendent for instructional technology.

She said the virtual program still has about five vacancies that were not filled before classes began in August. Because the enrollment period is still open, it’s not known yet exactly how many more teachers APS may need to hire.

If the district can’t recruit enough teachers, it will hold a lottery on Nov. 5 to determine which students will be admitted. Students who aren’t selected will be placed on a wait list, Henderson-Rosser said.

Board members urged administrators to do what they can to make sure all students who want to learn virtually get that chance.

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“If they are requesting this program, we should be providing it — particularly because (of) the trajectory of the pandemic and how it has truly not ended,” board Chairman Jason Esteves said.

More than 600 students signed up for full-time, online learning back in May, the district’s initial enrollment deadline for the fall semester.

As COVID-19 cases surged in August after the start of classes, more parents wanted an online option.

In recent weeks, cases have dropped. The district reported 139 cases among students and staff for the week ending Oct. 1. That’s the fifth consecutive week of declining case counts, according to district data.