Coronavirus, Education

‘It Is Not The Same’: Atlanta Superintendent Discusses What It’s Like To Start The Year Virtually

Although Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring is pleased with the district’s student login rate, she says she’s been most impressed with teachers’ dedication to making online learning work.
Although Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring is pleased with the district’s student login rate, she says she’s been most impressed with teachers’ dedication to making online learning work.
Credit Atlanta Board of Education

Like several metro Atlanta school districts, Atlanta Public Schools began the 2020-21 school year remotely. APS Superintendent Lisa Herring says it’s new territory.

“From the human perspective, it is not the same without our children in the buildings,” Herring says in an interview with WABE. “It is unprecedented. I sweat, keeps me up at night. I think about it every day.”

Although Herring is pleased with the district’s student login rate — up to 93.7% during the third week of school from 90.2% the second week — she says she’s been most impressed with teachers’ dedication to making online learning work.

“I don’t think it would be fair to make it sound flawless and seamless,” she says. “But it is very clear that teachers have to bring more energy than they would be bringing in a face-to-face to keep a class full of virtual learners engaged, whether they’re 5 or 6 years old or 16 and 18 years of age.”

Extended Interview

Herring has been visiting schools because some teachers are teaching remotely from their classrooms. She’s also “visited” virtual lessons, she says, engaging students when appropriate.

When APS began classes Aug. 24, district officials agreed to reevaluate COVID-19 conditions after nine weeks to see if the district should continue remotely or not. Herring says APS has been monitoring public health data and will announce more details about a possible hybrid system, where students alternate between home and school.

“I’m encouraged by what we’re seeing so far with the community spread data,” she says. “I’m encouraged. We’re not there yet, but if it continues to go in the way that we see, it’s that much more reasonable for us to be prepared for transitioning.”

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