APS Updates Phase II Return+Learn Plan with In-Person Learning Option for Elementary Students, Students with Disabilities

During the Atlanta Board of Education’s October 5 meeting, the Atlanta Public Schools leadership team and I were pleased to deliver updates on the district’s Return+Learn plan that include bringing some students back for face-to-face instruction.

Based on current COVID-19 health data for the APS community and because of safety measures and protocols we have in place, I am encouraged that we can start allowing some students to return for in-person learning beginning October 26. These student groups include: 

  • Students with Disabilities attending low incidence programs including our regional, self-contained classes, and 
  • Students attending Pre-K through 5th grade classes in traditional APS schools.

At this time, we plan to allow students whose families are comfortable with face-to-face teaching and learning to come for four days of in-person instruction each week. All other students would remain in virtual instruction either in their home school or Atlanta Virtual Academy.

More details about the plan and each instructional model is available at www.atlantapublicschools.us/reopen. Members of the APS community can also view the full presentation to the Board at its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/APSBoard.

Before I go into further details of the Return+Learn updates here, I think it is important to thank everyone in the APS community for the dedication and engagement they have exhibited through this season of pandemic and this season of protest. I also want to recognize that opinions and feelings about how APS returns to in-person instruction runs a broad spectrum.

I want to assure everyone that we will stay connected with families who wish to stay virtual. And we will be prepared to work with families who have the capacity to consider face-to-face.

To our teachers and principals: Thank you for your ongoing focus on quality teaching and for putting our students first even if it had to be from a distance.

To our staff: Thank you for your heart of service and for putting our schools first – in-person where possible, virtual when necessary.

To our community, including those who serve on the Board: Thank you for your confidence that this district would do right with our young scholars amid trying times.

To our parents and families: Thank you for your patience and your support and for ensuring that your children continue to be AT school even when they could not be IN school. We continue to be supportive whether you choose for your children to resume face-to-face instruction or you remain in the virtual space we have experienced since Day One.

Most of all to our students: Thank you for logging in each school day and keeping up with your studies despite the circumstances.

We have asked so much of everyone, and you have made us proud with your resilience.

There is much hope as we look toward Phase II. We remain cautious. But because we created a flexible plan, a nimble plan rooted in data and research, we are also confident that we can move safely and smoothly.

As we move into Phase II and later stages of Return+Learn, we are providing students and families with three instructional model options.

First, we have the Virtual Instructional Model, which is currently in place and is designed for families who don’t feel comfortable sending their children back to school but plan to remain with their current school for the rest of the school year.

Second, we have in-person instruction in our schools, which is designed for our families who feel comfortable with returning their students to a face-to-face, in-school environment.

Third, we offer virtual instruction through Atlanta Virtual Academy and Atlanta Virtual Academy Jr., which is designed for our families who wish for their students to remain in a virtual environment regardless of how we shift delivery models at our local schools.

Again, the current health data and our safety measures and protocols supports moving into Phase II of Return+Learn.

For Phase 2, the district plans to bring students in grades Pre-K through 5th grade and those in Special Education Low Incidence classrooms back for four days of in-person instruction starting Monday, October 26. All other students would remain in site-based virtual learning.

For Phase 3, the district, starting on November 16, will bring in students from grades 6 through 12 for four days of in-person learning.

For Phase 4, the district, starting on January 19, 2021, will resume five days of in-person instruction for all students.

For more details about each instructional model, please visit www.atlantapublicschools.us/reopen.

Of course, all of these proposed models and timelines remain contingent upon health data and stakeholder feedback. If public health data trends unfavorably, a return to a full virtual model may be warranted at any time.

Parent Intent to Return Forms

As we began moving forward into Phase II, we needed to know which instructional models each of our families wanted for their students for the rest of the school semester. This week, we sent an Intent to Return Declaration form to every family. The form is also available at: https://dig.apsgraphs.com/ITR/

We need all of our families to complete the form so that we have accurate numbers about students planning a return to in-person instruction as their primary option. This data is critical in creating schedules, assigning students, and developing plans for the rest of the school semester.

The form defaults to virtual instruction; therefore, if a parent declines to fill out the form before the October 12 deadline, the form will indicate your student will remain in the virtual instructional model they are currently participating, whether it is with their school or with Atlanta Virtual Academy.

So please make your decision now and help us plan for the rest of the school year.

We are eager to continue the hard work to return to our schools in person. And we will also move forward with the safety and best interests of our students and staff at the forefront.

Thanks for your support and patience. Please BE WELL!

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