After weeks of preparations and an engaging Runway for a Return to Learning, Atlanta Public Schools has arrived at its destination: Day One for School Year 2020-2021.
Without a doubt, this first day of school will be like no other.
It’s hard to describe the challenges and uncertainties we face as we embark on this new school year. Teaching and learning from a distance. Maintaining social distancing practices. Adhering to the highest levels of health, wellness, and safety amid a pandemic.
Yet, it doesn’t change the fact that today is the FIRST DAY of SCHOOL!
I absolutely LOVE the first day of school! There is simply nothing like getting your school supplies ready, filling up your backpack, meeting your teachers, seeing your friends, starting a new grade, and learning!
I have loved every single Day One since I was in elementary school and through to middle school, high school, and college. Even as a superintendent, I experience a certain thrill – and maybe even a few butterflies in my stomach – about every Day One!
Because of a season of pandemic and a season of protest, we may be returning to school within a virtual space, but that doesn’t mean we cannot have a glorious season of teaching and learning!
There are moments when the tides of adversity and challenges require us to rise to meet new heights. It would not be an overstatement to say that we face the most difficult school year in decades.
Amid all of the joy and excitement, I know there will be trepidation and even fear about starting an unconventional and unfamiliar school year. Admittedly, those butterflies I mentioned earlier might actually be much larger. But knowing that we have the best team in public education and an inspired Atlanta community behind us, I, for one, am not afraid.
I have confidence in our preparations for quality teaching and learning at a distance.
Our Teaching and Learning and Instructional Technology teams have created engaging lesson plans, standards of service, and templates for the virtual space.
Our Facilities, Operation, and Security crews continue to maintain our schools and buildings, creating a sense of calm, health, and safety across our district.
Our Information Technology and Accountability experts continue to ensure that every child and every teacher has the devices, access, and resources they need for success.
Our Student Supports professionals stand at the ready to help with any social, emotional, or physical needs of our students.
Our Engagement team created informative resources, town halls, and fireside chats.
Our Human Resources team has ensured that every classroom has a qualified teacher, once again allowing us to start a school year with the fewest vacancies in Metro Atlanta.
But let me temper expectations. Today may not be a perfect Day One. You might experience issues with scheduling, technology, food distribution, and even with teaching and learning. There could be delays, some devices might fail, and online chatrooms could disconnect.
All said, Day One will be a great day.
We’ll resolve any issues as they arise, and even amid these challenges, we must all remember in this season to be patient. Please be patient with our teachers, our staff, our partners, and our volunteers who are all committed to the success of our beautiful children.
In addition to patience, I also ask our students, our families, our teachers, our staff, and our entire community to #WalkInYourGifts and #DisruptTheFear.
Times of adversity and challenge press us to explore our gifts and face our fears. I am imploring everyone in the APS community: Don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid to seek help. The unfamiliar breeds confusion, so please reach out to your schools and our district leaders with your questions and concerns. Here is a contact list:
- Use Let’s Talk. You can access it on the homepage of our website (www.atlantapublicschools.us)
- Call 404.802.1000 for technology issues.
- Bookmark our new Day One: Return + Learn web site, which is rich with resources (www.atlantapublicschools.us/backtoschool)
- Reach out to our Student Support teams for social emotional learning and Trauma to Transition support.
Don’t be afraid to be awesome. Be creative. Attempt something new. Embrace the virtual world and see what it will yield.
Don’t be afraid to engage. Ask questions. Embrace learning in the new space.
Don’t be afraid to #WalkInYourGifts and #DisruptTheFear!
This all leads up to this: Don’t be afraid to have a great Day One and a successful school year!