Atlanta Public Schools reopens enrollment for virtual learning

Atlanta Public Schools announced it will expand its virtual learning program to accommodate more students. Registration for the online option initially closed in May, months before the start of the 2021-2022 school year and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. (Hyosub Shin / AJC FILE PHOTO)

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Public Schools announced it will expand its virtual learning program to accommodate more students. Registration for the online option initially closed in May, months before the start of the 2021-2022 school year and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. (Hyosub Shin / AJC FILE PHOTO)

Atlanta Public Schools will allow more students to enroll in virtual learning in response to demand from families concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic.

But students may not be able to move to online classes for several months.

Only 680 students signed up for the district’s online option in mid-May, the deadline APS set to register for the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year. That meant that when school started in August, nearly all of the roughly 38,000 students who attend Atlanta’s traditional, non-charter schools returned to in-person learning.

The back-to-school season arrived just as the delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rates led to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Now, the district is seeking to make room for more online students.

Superintendent Lisa Herring announced that families interested in enrolling in Atlanta Virtual Academy can apply through Oct. 22.

ExploreAs COVID surges, metro Atlanta parents seek virtual school options

“The many concerns and considerations of this pandemic have shifted and changed, and will continue to do so. The delta variant has caused a surge of cases across the country, and in turn we have seen an increased interest in our virtual programs,” she wrote in a blog post.

In response to an open-records request filed Aug. 27 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the district said it has not created a wait list of students interested in virtual learning.

APS reported more than 1,800 COVID-19 cases among students and staff from early August through Sept. 10. Masks are required, and APS recently mandated that staff be tested twice a week for COVID-19.

ExploreMore stories about Atlanta Public Schools

The district said the first day for new virtual students will depend on the number of interested students and the “ability to provide adequate staffing.” Herring wrote that January could be “our realistic timeline.”

Spokesman Seth Coleman confirmed in an email that APS is hiring new teachers to accommodate the virtual expansion.

Herring told the school board last week that “while we would love to be able to launch this expansion immediately we must allow for the preparation of a workforce based on the actual demand” for virtual learning.

If the number of students seeking to move online is more than APS can accommodate, the district will hold a lottery on Nov. 5 to determine which students are admitted.

Priority will be given to students who live within the district but who do not attend an APS school and medically fragile students, followed by students enrolled in an APS traditional or charter school who want to move to virtual learning.