Most Atlanta students to return to in-person learning next year

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Nearly all Atlanta students will return to in-person learning when school resumes Aug. 5.

Only 603 Atlanta Public Schools’ students registered for the district’s virtual learning option for the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year, according to numbers obtained by The Atlanta Journal Constitution through an open-records request.

That’s less than 2% of the roughly 38,000 students enrolled in the district’s traditional, non-charter schools. Atlanta’s charter and partner schools, which enroll roughly 12,600 additional students, are making their own plans for next school year.

The influx of students returning to school buildings comes after the district switched its rules and made in-person learning the default option for the upcoming school year. It also comes as COVID-19 cases dwindle, and most middle and high school students are now eligible for vaccines. Shots are not yet available for children under age 12.

ExploreAtlanta schools to make in-person learning default option next year

APS’ return rate closely mirrors Gwinnett County Public School, where just over 2% of students in the state’s largest district are opting to learn online next year.

For Atlanta, it marks a significant shift since the coronavirus pandemic first closed school buildings in March 2020.

“Sixty percent of our scholars have not been physically present in our school buildings this past year,” said Superintendent Lisa Herring at a May 20 town hall.

About a third of students returned to campuses starting in late January, when APS began to reopen buildings. By late March, the number inched up, but still only about 41% chose to learn in-person.

Parents who wanted their children to remain in virtual classes next year had to sign up by mid-May. A district spokesman said APS will not allow students to switch from in-person to online learning now that the deadline is passed.

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Those who selected virtual classes are committed to that learning model through the first semester.

The highest virtual numbers are in middle and high school grades. Experts have said older children may have an easier time managing online work than younger students who need more hands-on guidance from teachers.