When Atlanta Public Schools (APS) moved into virtual learning to address the growing COVID-19 pandemic, our teachers, staff, and district leaders dedicated themselves to protecting our community’s health and safety while striving to provide a high-quality education in a virtual environment.
My colleagues rose to the occasion with extraordinary care, grace, and courage. I cannot thank them enough.
We recognize that many of our students have lost invaluable learning time since March, placing them at a greater risk of not being prepared for college, career, and life. Many have experienced the loss of loved ones; others have grappled with racial injustices and police brutality; and others still face food and income insecurity.
It is clear that there is much work to do to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of our students amid this pandemic.
While we continue to operate virtually until the end of the semester, we are preparing for a proposed January 2021 reopening which maintains three instructional delivery models: 1) Site-Based Virtual Learning, 2) Face-to-Face Options and 3) Atlanta Virtual Academy. In preparation for our eventual reopening, our phased-in approach includes teacher preparation days and phasing in elementary students first followed by secondary students over the first several weeks in January 2021.
In support of reopening, the district is launching the following activities in preparation for our Return + Learn Plan:
- Expanded academic interventions across all schools to address the neediest students
- Special Education in-person instructional support as assessed by staff
- Launching an Intent to Return Form for all students to select or change their previous declaration for January 2021.
- Monitoring APS Athletics and identifying potential opportunities for APS Arts to perform/practice in-person in small groups.
More information and details are forthcoming regarding these activities and our reopening plan.
You will recall that when APS announced that we would remain virtual through at least January 2021, we also shared that we’re continuing to explore ways to support our highest-need learners, particularly our low-incidence special needs population and our youngest students, including their potential return to some in-person services prior to January 2021.
In follow up to that commitment, the District is developing guidelines that will allow our schools to launch interventions – both face-to-face and virtual – for our highest-need students beginning the week of November 16 and lasting for the following nine weeks of school. Our intervention plan is aligned to and in support of APS’ whole-child framework. Through these interventions, we aspire to address students’ needs in the areas of wellness, social-emotional learning, and positive behavior supports.
Each of our schools and clusters will develop their own plans to meet the unique needs of their students, but all of our schools must offer face-to-face intervention for their highest-need students in order to ensure equitable outcomes for students.
Leadership at each school will determine what interventions are offered, how interventions are staffed and delivered, and when interventions are offered, whether they are before school, during school, or after school. And they must meet regularly to identify students eligible for these interventions based on their academic needs, wellness needs, and engagement issues as shown in the chart below.
To be clear, this initiative does not mean that we are moving forward into the next phase of our Return+Learn plan. (Please find more details of our ongoing reopening plans on my blog and at our Return+Learn web site.) Instead, colleagues from both the Schools and Academics and Student Support teams have worked collaboratively with school-based leadership to create these additional opportunities and supports to address specific needs for our students.
I must stress: The implementation of interventions has been ongoing since the start of the school year. The effort to intensify interventions does not replace core instruction and interventions will be scheduled around the instructional model. CARE teams will help to assess student referrals, assign appointments, and appropriate interventions.
I also want to assure our students, families, and staff that all face-to-face interventions will be offered in alignment with APS’ health and safety protocols, developed in close collaboration with public health officials and as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Schools will reach out to parents and families directly about their plans and whether your child is eligible for these services.
Please stay engaged and be well.