October 16, 2020 APS FAQs
Superintendent Lisa Herring on Friday, October 16, announced her decision for Atlanta Public Schools to delay its return to face-to-face instruction. This decision comes based on the district’s continued tracking of COVID-19 health data, which is currently tracking on an unfavorable trend, and in consultation with public health officials and healthcare experts. Superintendent Herring also considered data based on feedback from our families, staff, and stakeholders.
Given this current information and careful consideration, Atlanta Public Schools has postponed its reopening plans for in-person learning and will continue with the current virtual model until at least January 2021.
But the APS commitment to giving EVERY student a quality education remains strong.
Atlanta Public Schools continues to engage students, their families, teachers, staff, and the entire APS community as the district continues working through its Return+Learn reopening plan. These frequently asked questions (FAQs) address today’s decision and also reflect issues and questions raised during recent town halls, fireside chats, and other conversations as the entire community works to educate our children amid a pandemic.
- Why did APS choose to remain virtual until January 2021?
As Superintendent Herring and other APS officials have shared in numerous virtual town halls, fireside chats, memorandums, weekly videos, and news reports, all decisions regarding our phased approach for a return to face-to-face teaching and learning remain rooted in the current COVID-19 health data for our community and other factors we deemed important.
To be more specific, APS would NOT return if the school community remained in substantial spread, which is currently the case.
The decision to further delay the in-person opening of our schools was difficult. But after consulting with our teachers, staff, students, families, and public health officials, Superintendent Herring decided this is the right approach at this time.
- What data did APS use to make the decision?
APS monitors, on a daily basis, the COVID-19 data published by the Georgia Department of Public Health at this link: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report. That daily report contains levels of community transmission over 14 days, the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and percent of positive tests by county. Despite downward trends in recent weeks, our community has seen recent increases in new cases, resulting in a current average that exceeds 130 new cases per 100,000 county residents. That number leaves us in substantial spread of COVID-19 and unable to reopen to in-person instruction.
The specific information we refer to for decision making is based on the information included on the maps from GA Department of Public Health (https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report) titled “COVID-19 by County.” When hovering over the individual counties, our team locates the levels of community transmission/spread which is denoted as the “cases per 100K (last two weeks)” and includes the 14-day incidence rate of new diagnoses.
We will continue to provide the regular public health data checks. The next one is scheduled for the Monday, November 2, meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education.
- Atlanta Public Schools asked families to complete the Intent to Return Declaration Form. What are the results from the collection of those forms, and did this data inform the decision-making process?
APS sent the Intent to Return Declaration Form to 38,397 students, which represents the total PreK-12 enrollment of all traditional APS schools. Please note that this figure does not include charter and partner students, which represents an additional 10,000+ students. Families of students at charter and partner schools did not participate in the intent to return process. We appreciate the more than 22,000 families (or 58% of you) who submitted their forms by the deadline.
Of those submitting the forms, 10,460 expressed their intent for their children to return to school if we were to resume in-person instruction. That’s less than half the people who filled out the form.
There are three schools that had more than 60% of students declare their intent to return in person. All three of these schools were elementary schools in the North Atlanta cluster, Brandon, Jackson, and Smith. We had 16 schools where less than 20% of students declared their intent to return in person. As a cluster, North Atlanta had the highest percent of students declare in person with 42%, compared to the Mays cluster, with only 19%. I should note that for the 16,200 families that did not return the forms, their forms defaulted to site-based virtual instruction.
We know there are differing opinions across families and communities regarding this decision. Superintendent Herring and her team considered many different voices throughout this process. At this time, she encourages unity across our school community as we work collaboratively through this pandemic and continue to put our students and staff first.
- What is the district doing about its most vulnerable students?
We are encouraged by the fact that our students are engaged and have been logging on at an average rate of 95% each week. But many students remain vulnerable amid this teaching and learning during a pandemic.
We stand committed to supporting the academic, social, and emotional needs of every single student in APS, even as we continue in this virtual space. There’s no question that this pandemic has affected our students and so many of us in different ways. Our most vulnerable students have been hit hardest, which is why we have implemented more deliberate outreach efforts, including but not limited to:
- Daily phone calls directly to parents and guardians of students when they are not logged on or do not remain online throughout the school day
- At-home visits when students have not logged-in over a three-to-four day period of time or if staff is unable to contact parents of students who are consistently not remaining logged-in
- Consistent monitoring of attendance and login rates every week
- Schools also send home “no contact letters,” similar to the attendance letters they would send home in a traditional instructional setting.
- Support staff assists our teachers and administrators with these issues, and social workers are brought in as needed to engage with students who consistently remain offline during the school day.
In addition, we have followed through on the commitments we made this spring to distribute internet-connected devices to families across the district and partner with organizations that offer support for students who need them most.
Families of students who have any issues with virtual learning, devices, or connectivity should contact their schools immediately.
- With the reopening plan, APS said Wednesdays would be designated for asynchronous instruction, with students learning at different times and at their own pace. Will this remain the same?
Wednesdays will remain synchronous instructional days, as we’ve been doing for the first nine weeks. That means students will experience teaching and learning at the same time. We were implementing asynchronous Wednesdays, in which students learn at different times and work at their own pace, only as part of our Phase II face-to-face plan. We appreciate the teachers who took the opportunity to organize, rearrange, and prepare their rooms on the professional learning days this week and know it will be helpful later to have undertaken these activities now.
- Will the three Instructional Model Options remain the same?
At this time, APS has not changed the three instructional models.
- What are the options for partner and charter schools?
The district’s charter and partner schools must implement in-person learning reopening plans that are approved by the district and that follow COVID-19 mitigation protocols that are the same or similar to the district’s. Given that the district has announced its decision to remain virtual at this time, the district’s charter and partner schools also must remain virtual. Families of students in charter and partner schools should expect to hear directly from their schools.
- How will APS handle food distribution for the rest of the semester?
With APS remaining in the virtual setting, our Nutrition program will provide seven-day weekly meal kits (seven breakfast meals and seven lunch meals) with distribution occurring each Monday, beginning October 26, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. from one of the 14 curbside pick-up locations or designated school bus routes listed at www.atlantapublicschools.us/Page/63224.
- What is the status of athletics?
Our high school football, volleyball, softball, and cross country teams will continue to compete, following the appropriate health and safety protocols we’ve put in place. No fans are allowed in the stands. In addition, we expect our winter sports athletes to begin conditioning soon, following all health and safety protocols.
- Will APS re-survey teachers again for future phases?
The district will re-assess staff availability to work in person as part of reopening plans at each phase. It may or may not take the form of a survey. We now have much of the information we need about staff’s medical or other personal conditions that would prevent them from working. We would seek to refresh this data in light of health conditions at the time of future reopening phases.
- What is the status of telework for employees?
For our employees — both district office and school-based — whether you are currently working remotely or are reporting to work in person, please maintain your current schedule until further notice. Anyone with a telework application currently in process for Phase II reopening should complete the process to have their approval or denial documented for future reference.
New telework applications should not be submitted by school-based employees. (Some operations staff may still encounter a need to apply for telework.) Teachers, remember that you can still use your classrooms for virtual instruction. Any employee with questions about telework, paid leave, ADA accommodations, or any employee-related matter should contact their supervisor or the Human Resources department. All of our facilities are open to non-APS employees by appointment only.