070820_MNS_full_Herring_sworn_in Lisa Herring and others

Lisa Herring, right, is sworn in by Fulton County State Court Judge Patsy Porter, left, as Herring’s mother and daughter, front center, look on.

Atlanta Public Schools is preliminarily moving forward with its plan to start the 2020-21 academic year two weeks later than planned and begin with nine weeks of online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With safety of students & staff our top priority, I’m recommending @apsupdate begin school on August 24 virtually,” Superintendent Lisa Herring, Ed.D, said in a July 10 tweet regarding the strategy, which includes starting school Aug. 24 instead of Aug. 10. “Aug 3-21 will be ‘runway for return to learning’ & pre-planning.”

At its special called meeting July 13 at its office downtown, the Atlanta Board of Education voted 9-0, as part of Herring’s plan, to approve the first reading of changing to the school calendar, which also includes decreasing the number of instruction days for 2020-21 by 10 days to 170. The board is expected to approve the calendar adjustments a second and final time at its Aug. 3 meeting.

The district is expected to hold classes in person after the first nine weeks, but that could change if the outbreak warrants keeping instruction online then.

According to a news release, Aug. 3 through 21 will serve as a time where the district will plan for going back to school, including student assessments and teachers getting to know their pupils. The online classes could end early or be extended depending on when and if the virus’ spread in Atlanta has dropped to a minimal or moderate level.

In response to Herring’s tweet, parents gave tweets of their own both criticizing and praising the plan.

According to a survey recently conducted by the district and whose results were included in its reopening plan presentation at the meeting (a copy is above left), 66% of responding parents said they are “at least somewhat comfortable returning to face-to-face” classes.

But 72% of teachers and 67% of bus drivers responding said they were “at least somewhat uncomfortable returning to work in person,” and about 45% of teachers and bus drivers responding said they are at “high risk” for contracting the virus.

District 4 board member Nancy Meister, who represents Buckhead’s schools, said over the weekend she got many calls and emails from constituents wanting the district to instead opt for a combination of both in-person and virtual classes.

“I personally would be hesitant to send my child back to school,” said Meister, whose children attended schools in the North Atlanta High cluster but have graduated. “I thought that would be the right thing, but the parents really want the in-person option. My hope is do we push back things and will things calm down and can we do some type of hybrid but keeping kids and teachers safe?

“This is such a strange time, and I think we have to take it day by day. … I would hope consideration would be taken. But you’ve got to have a plan and you’ve got to update it and communicate it and everybody knows it’s going to be fluid because this pandemic makes things change every day.”

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