Some metro Atlanta public school districts have released reopening plans for the fall semester. Most have decided to use a hybrid system that will incorporate remote learning and face-to-face instruction.
The Clayton County Public Schools says it will roll out a “blended” instructional model. That means it will use remote learning and in-person classes. Schools will alternate a day at school, then a day at home. Fridays will be districtwide virtual learning days.
Clayton officials say they based the plan on current information on the spread of COVID-19. If spread increases or decreases, the district says it can adjust instructional plans.
Like most districts, CCPS sent parents a survey to see if they preferred to return to school or continue with remote learning.
“Most of our parents, I would say about 67 almost 68%, are either uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with coming back even with safety guidelines in place, so that was a very critical piece of data we had to consider,” Clayton Schools Superintendent Morcease Beasley said during a live address on YouTube.
To make remote learning easier, the Clayton County school board approved a plan in the spring to provide digital tablets to every third-12th grader in the district. The school system eventually plans to provide devices to all students in grades K-12.
The Cobb County School District, City of Marietta Schools and Gwinnett County Public Schools all unveiled similar plans.
In each district, families can choose whether they want their children to return to school or to continue with remote learning. Those that want to stay online need to submit their preference to their school system by July 10.
In Cobb County, parents who choose virtual learning will need to verify they have a digital device, internet access, and are committed to remote learning. The district says those students who return to schools will find new safety procedures in place, including social-distancing measures and new cleaning protocols. Officials also recommend wearing a mask.
The Gwinnett County school system says the results of a parent survey showed 43% prefer in-person classes; 34% prefer digital learning, and 23% prefer a combination of both. The district will email parents of enrolled students on June 29, asking them to state their preference.
Families who choose in-person instruction in the Marietta City Schools will need to agree to follow new safety protocols. The district has outlined different procedures for different ages, but they generally include new cleaning standards, temperature checks and social-distancing measures.
Superintendent Grant Rivera told the school board families need to have some options.
“Our children’s education is too important to patch something together that has an insensitivity to not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also to the personal preferences and medical needs of students and families,” he said. “We can’t patch this thing together and assume that everyone can conform to what’s most convenient to us as a school district.”
MCS will also hold virtual town halls for each school in July so that parents can ask questions.
Atlanta Public Schools has held virtual town halls to discuss potential reopening plans with parents. The district’s incoming superintendent, Lisa Herring, said if the coronavirus hasn’t spread much, APS will be able to resume face-to-face instruction.
“That means that students and staff would report to our buildings on Day One,” Herring said. “But we would implement proactive, preventative practices and protocols in our buildings.”
Herring said APS is considering three different scenarios: in-person instruction, virtual learning or a combination of both.
APS plans to announce its reopening plans in mid-July.
The Fulton County School System is also considering three different reopening plans. The DeKalb County School District sought parent feedback through an online survey that closed June 21.
The Georgia Department of Education has issued guidelines for reopening schools. Officials say the Department of Public Health will soon release guidance on how to determine the level of spread for COVID-19.
School districts are advised, but not required, to follow the state’s recommendations.
A note of disclosure: The Atlanta Board of Education holds WABE’s broadcast license.