Fulton County School System Plans To Return To In-Person Learning After Labor Day

Atlanta Public Schools plans to bring elementary students and some with special needs back Oct. 26 if COVID-19 conditions stay the same or improve. Students who opt for face-to-face learning will attend school four days a week and work virtually from home on Wednesdays. According to the plan, students in grades 6-12 would return Nov. 16.

Brenna Beech / for WABE

Like most major metro Atlanta school districts, the Fulton County Schools plans to start the year virtually. But the district hopes to bring students back into schools after Labor Day if coronavirus cases decrease significantly by then. At a school board meeting last week, Fulton Superintendent Mike Looney presented a four-phased plan where students would gradually return to face-to-face instruction.

“[The plan] allows us to turn school back on in a deliberate way to maximize safety of students and staff members so that we can react to the data that comes before us,” Looney said. “All we can really do is respond to the environment that we’ve been given.”

The first phase of the plan, scheduled to begin Sept. 8, would have some students returning to schools for brief periods of time each week. For example, Looney said, young children would have in-person instruction once a week.

“We would schedule a…session for every student in Pre-K through 2 to come into the school building and meet with their teacher one day a week for 90 minutes,” he said.

Schools will eventually work up to the fourth phase, where students attend school in person twice a week. Looney says schools won’t fully resume face-to-face instruction until Fulton County reaches less than 100 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people.

Students don’t have to participate in face-to-face instruction during the four phases. They can opt for remote learning instead.

As teachers and students begin the year remotely, district officials said online instruction will be different than it was last spring. Then, schools had to shift gears quickly, moving from in-person classes to remote instruction in a few days. But this fall, Fulton County teachers will be expected to report to their schools to conduct virtual learning.

“Learning is a social experience,” said Fulton County Schools Chief Academic Officer Clifford Jones. “To see and interact with people is necessary for it to stick. Live, daily instruction is needed and will occur.”

Gwinnett County is also requiring teachers to report to their schools to conduct remote instruction. More than 1,500 people have signed a petition asking the district to let teachers work remotely.

Parents have protested and signed petitions in Cobb and Gwinnett after both districts decided to begin the year entirely online this year.