Atlanta schools to open for full-time, in-person learning next year

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring announced the district will return to a five-day-a-week schedule next school year. Curtis Compton / AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring announced the district will return to a five-day-a-week schedule next school year. Curtis Compton / AJC FILE PHOTO

Students in Atlanta Public Schools can return to classrooms full-time, five-days-a-week in the next academic year.

A virtual option will remain, but the district will discontinue simultaneous teaching, which requires teachers to engage with students at home and in-person at the same time.

We are opening our doors with wide-open arms to welcome all of our students back into our schools for face-to-face learning,” Superintendent Lisa Herring said in a Friday blog post. “We don’t intend to have asynchronous Wednesdays and no simultaneous teaching.”

Herring said the district will announce details of its plan for next school year at an April 12 board meeting.

The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 5.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted APS to move classes online last March.

Some Atlanta students began returning to school buildings in late January, but only for four days each week. APS reserved Wednesdays as an independent work day, when all students stay home. Teachers use the time to plan lessons or meet individually with students, and schools are cleaned.

The schedule was unpopular with some parents who want their children back in school buildings.

Earlier this month, the group Committee for APS Progress called for a return to a traditional schedule no later than next school year. The group pushed officials to declare its plans now so families would “have time to look elsewhere” for private schools, learning pods or other districts that would provide full-time, in-person instruction if APS did not.

In a Friday email, the committee’s chairman David Hayes said: “Finally, the superintendent and APS are doing the right thing and following the science. Now we need to work to remediate the damage done over the past year and a half and to make sure this promise of five days a week becomes reality. The devil is in the details.”

Currently, about 41% of Atlanta students enrolled in the district’s traditional, non-charter schools are learning in-person.

APS spokesman Ian Smith said more students are expected to come back next school year.

Students can also enroll in Atlanta Virtual Academy, which offers flexible classes and its own instructors.

The district plans to continue some school-based virtual options, where classes are taught by teachers at a student’s home school, Smith said. But next year, instead of asking teachers to juggle both in-person and at-home students at the same time, schools would assign them to only one instructional model.

Smith said APS expects to maintain health and safety measures, such as mask-wearing, for those learning in-person.

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