Atlanta Public Schools reopening survey shows split opinion

Atlanta Public Schools received survey responses from more than 17,000 people about their reopening preferences. AJC FILE PHOTO/Alyssa Pointer

Atlanta Public Schools received survey responses from more than 17,000 people about their reopening preferences. AJC FILE PHOTO/Alyssa Pointer

Results of an Atlanta Public Schools survey show the divide in how parents think the school system should reopen this year.

The district conducted the survey before announcing two weeks ago that it would start the school year with virtual-only instruction. Students will learn online for at least the first nine weeks of the year, or until there is a minimal or moderate spread of coronavirus. The school board also has tentatively agreed to push back the first day of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24.

APS leaders cited the surge in coronavirus cases as well as feedback from staff and parents as factors in its reopening decision.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained results of the reopening survey this week after filing a open-records request.

APS, which enrolls about 52,000 students, received 17,854 responses to the electronic survey completed in late June. The vast majority of respondents, 80%, identified themselves as parents or guardians of an Atlanta student. About 11% of survey-takers were students, while employees made up about 8% of respondents.

Respondents were split down the middle on the idea of virtual-only instruction, the approach the district announced it will take to start the year. Half of the survey-takers said that idea made them extremely to slightly uncomfortable, while the other half felt the opposite.

Read the APS survey here

Nearly 58% of respondents said they felt slightly to extremely uncomfortable with reopening schools in a full-time, in-person model.

Respondents were more comfortable with a hybrid approach, having students come to school on some days and do virtual lessons on other days. About 57% of respondents said they were extremely to slightly comfortable with that idea.

More than 57% of respondents said they preferred to “return to school for full-time instruction delivered in a model in alignment with health recommendations.” Nearly 37% preferred online-only instruction.

The survey also showed APS still has work to do to make sure every student has a computer at home. About 17% of respondents said that not every child in their household had access to a device and 6% said their child did not have high-speed internet.

The survey provided some information about how the parents, students and staffers want the district to keep people safe when APS reopens school buildings. More than 90% of respondents said they believed it was important for the district to conduct temperature checks and nearly 78% said face masks should be required, a mandate school board members are poised to adopt.

Respondents also believed that students should eat meals in the classroom, instead of in a larger-group cafeteria setting, and that classrooms and buses should be set up for social distancing. But they strongly disagreed with the idea of canceling outdoor recess and gym time.