Atlanta Public Schools Fall 2020 Reopening Strategy
See the full Reopening Strategy HERE
While everyone, including students, parents and teachers alike, wanted to return in person on August 10th, the significant spread of the virus is still a reality. As a result, the district has pushed the start date back two weeks to Monday August 24th and the first nine weeks will be virtual learning. I know this is not the reality that everyone wants but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt to start this school year, and we are going to make the best of it!
Many people may also be wondering how this decision was made, especially with the surrounding school districts and private schools planning to offer in person instruction. It’s important to note that APS has taken a careful look at the health data available (see the full report) and based their decisions not just off the needs of the North Atlanta community, but our entire APS family. No one’s first choice for school is virtual learning, but with substantial spread of the virus and new record highs each day, this was the decision. I have received many questions about school autonomy and using our “charter” and school governance team to make local school decisions. I am happy to entertain all of these questions as I learn more from my weekly meetings with the Superintendent and APS principals. The questions have been submitted for review.
The continued endeavor into virtual learning will require both flexibility and adaptability. Parents may be working while facilitating learning, and our teachers may be caring for children of their own. All of our staff will have an important role in virtual learning, and we want to get it right! With the additional time added to pre-planning, I plan to push back our grade level talks to August. During these grade level discussions, we will discuss the reopening plan in detail with our community, review student schedules and introduce grade level teachers, while also answering any further questions you may have. Please understand that we are continuing to learn more each day as the district begins to roll out the plan for virtual learning. In the meantime, we are compiling a list of FAQ’s to help answer some of your questions and to guide some of our work. Please use THIS Google form to ask questions of our admin team, and please feel free to share the link.
I have also received a lot of questions about the release of class lists. I understand that it’s important for families to know who will be in their child’s class ahead of time for learning purposes, like forming tutoring groups, pods, or to coordinate outside interactions. My best advice for now is to be patient and wait until you know who is in your child’s class before making any decisions. Teachers will be teaching the same standards, with the same activities, however we must be flexible with pacing. Each class tends to move at their own pace as teachers adjust to students’ specific learning needs all while balancing family life. The North Atlanta cluster has decided to release class lists on August 5th. This must be done when teachers are back in the building, and they do not return until August 3rd, and secretaries are back full time. Please know that I am unable to post class lists on doors or windows due to FERPA. Teacher assignments will be available through Infinite Campus Parent Portal only.
On a more personal note, I understand the struggle and reality we, as parents, are dealing with. I had to tell my son, who is so excited to attend his dad’s school, that he would be starting the year virtually. Instead of upsetting him, we made the conversation exciting. I told him that it’s a way to lessen the nerves of a new school and when he finally has the hang of it, we’ll be back in person. We talked about how exciting it will be when it is time to return and how he’s going to learn how to read through small group instruction over the internet. He’s excited I get to be his full time teacher too! We are going to prepare him like we would any other school year – new clothes, school supplies, a great learning space at home, and all the Morris Brandon gear he can handle! In essence, I did not instill my fear, anger or frustration with the situation on him, and I know you will do the same. The social and emotional piece and the personal interactions are what our students will miss the most, and it’s extremely important that we create a stable learning environment for them. After all, this is temporary.
To that end, I want to recognize that while there are still many unknowns, we are committed to not just improving our online virtual experience, but also streamlining it so expectations are clear and concise across each grade level. Many people questioned why we pushed the start date, but the added two weeks now gives our staff a total of three weeks to plan our virtual kickoff, giving us more time to prepare for success. Our admin team has been working hard all summer creating virtual learning schedules paired with online expectations across all grade levels (including DLI) that will be used not just at Brandon, but across our cluster schools. Therefore, we must continue to be patient as we work on plans to kick off the school year, like Celebration of Learning, meet and greets, the release of class lists, and teacher introductions. We are working on a plan with our PTA that will allow for face-to-face meetups in small groups, targeting the last week of pre-planning (August 17). Please be on the lookout for a cluster wide communication from all of the Principals in the North Atlanta Cluster in regard to how we are working together, not just as an individual school but as a group of schools. We look forward to sharing these plans as we move forward.
All politics aside, in order for our students to safely return to school face to face, there must be minimal to moderate spread of COVID-19 in our community. We are currently at substantial spread as record highs of cases are being reported daily. Please do anything you can to help getting back to school a reality, like socially distancing, avoiding large groups, wearing a mask, and continually washing your hands.
Be sure to stay tuned for more info each week as we learn more and our plans come to life.