APS closes for in-person instruction for remainder of year

UPDATE: April 3, 2020Updated FAQ document from Superintendent Town Hall. These questions and answers are based on major themes posed during the March 26 and April 3 APS District Town Hall events. If further questions exist, please review the other information on this page or reach out to us by submitting a question on Let’s Talk. https://bit.ly/3bMguoP

UPDATE: April 2, 2020Atlanta Public Schools to hold Virtual Town Hall at noon, Friday, April 3, on Facebook Live. View the recording at http://www.facebook.com/AtlantaPublicSchools

POSTED: April 1, 2020 – Governor Brian Kemp announced today that all K-12 schools in Georgia will remain closed for in-person instruction for the remainder of this school year. In keeping with this order, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will remain closed for the remainder of this school year for in-person instruction. Our students and staff will continue teleschooling and teleworking for the remainder of the school year.

We will work on the impact of this decision, including exploring alternative scenarios to celebrate our 2020 graduates, and to address the loss of instructional learning time. APS will remain in contact with our families and staff as we work through solutions that address these concerns. 

As soon as possible, the District will hold a virtual town hall to translate what this means for APS. Thank you for your patience as we work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

APS permenecerá cerrado para la instrucción en persona por el resto del año escolar, por orden del gobernador Kemp. Haga clic aquí para leer más.

APS Joins Forces with Comcast to Get Kids Connected

One of the most difficult – but necessary – decisions I have ever made as an urban schools superintendent was to close Atlanta Public Schools for teleschooling and teleworking. Necessary … to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Difficult … a potential disconnect between schools and our students.

Immediately, we entered a whole new world of education, a virtual one that required technology from computers to hotspots to access to the Internet. Unfortunately, in Atlanta – the most income disparate city in America – we have thousands of families who cannot afford to even get online at home.

This school year, APS distributed more than 7,500 iPads to 1st and 2nd graders as part of the Tablet2Read program and more than 8,000 laptops to students in grades 6-8. That made APS almost “1-to-1” at those grade levels. After closure of schools in response to COVID-19, the district distributed nearly an additional 9,000 Chromebooks to students.

But many of these students were not “connected.” No matter how many devices they might have at home, they couldn’t receive or turn in assignments if they did not have Internet access.

We put out a huge call. We needed more help from partners.

Today, I can proudly say that Comcast responded to our call in a great and generous way!

To bridge the digital divide for the city’s most vulnerable families, we joined with Comcast’s Internet Essentials program to provide low-cost, high-speed Internet and computers. The “Get Our Kids Connected” campaign is also an opportunity for everyone – from corporate partners to individuals – to make a grand impact in the lives of some of our most promising APS scholars.

Here are the deets:

For $300, contributors can give the gift of connectivity, which will provide students with a laptop and an Internet connection for 12 months. APS has identified a pilot group of 1,000 students with an immediate need, which sets the fundraising goal at $300,000. 

Those interested in donating can do so by visiting www.atlantapublicschools.us/getourkidsconnected.

Even before we launched, we had an angel in our midst as Trinity HealthShare, a non-profit health care sharing ministry, became our first major donor with a $50,000 contribution to help kick start this campaign, followed by Atlanta Tech Village with a $10,000 contribution.

Trinity HealthShare CEO William “Rip” Thead told us that he and his group view the children of APS as “our children.” He said: “When we became aware of the opportunity to provide laptops directly to students who normally would go without, we wanted to take immediate action. This $50,000 donation is what we believe will be a jump start for reducing the technology gap for our children in the City of Atlanta.”

Our team worked hard with Comcast, and I am proud to say their work will not only help Atlanta’s children but those in other districts across the country as Comcast plans to expand the program with other school district partners in the future. We are facing extremely dark and difficult times. Today, I feel blessed and see a ray of hope because of this.

APS notified of first confirmed case of COVID-19 in district

Fulton County Board of Health investigation finds no exposure to students and no close contact with other APS staff.

The Fulton County Board of Health (BOH) notified Atlanta Public Schools (APS) of its first confirmed case of COVID-19 today.

However, in this case, there is no exposure to students, and for staff there was no close contact with this employee based on an investigation by the Board of Health. The Board of Health is communicating directly with the employee and has directed the employee to self-quarantine.

Based on their determination, public health officials do not have any other students or employees to interview at this time. Per guidance from health officials, the identity of the employee must be kept confidential, but we can disclose that the employee did work at North Atlanta High School.

Health officials explained that the biggest public health intervention that Atlanta Public Schools could have done has already been done —all schools in Atlanta Public Schools are closed. They did advise that all North Atlanta High School students and staff members should continue to self-monitor at home and remain vigilant in exercising the following preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Practice social distancing by avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (i.e., no close contact with individuals, maintain a distance of more than 6 feet, and if within 6 feet, less than 10 minutes for any interaction) from others when possible.
  • Avoid crowded places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters, and stadiums.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Please seek medical attention if you or a family member feels ill or is exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

While APS is closed for teleschooling and teleworking all schools and buses in APS are being thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, following CDC guidelines for COVID-19 prevention, including cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas such as desks, hard surfaces, light switches, doorknobs, and handrails based on scientific research about COVID-19. In addition, our cleaning crews are using cleaning products that are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s approved list for combatting COVID 19.

Your continued safety and well-being is important to APS. As we work through the impacts of COVID-19 in our community, we are committed to providing you with accurate, timely and transparent information as we receive it. Continue to stay up-to-date on the District’s response to COVID-19 by visiting https://www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus.

I’m thinking of all of you during this difficult time and am doing everything we can to keep you safe and informed. Please be safe and take care of yourself and your families.

Get Counted! Census 2020 provides critical data for school funding

“Shape your future. START HERE.” The 2020 Census, the official count of every person living in the United States and its territories, launches this month. In the coming weeks, we will see thousands of announcements, flyers, news reports and social media postings in the coming weeks with the new tagline and the importance of getting counted.

What I cannot stress enough is the IMPORTANCE of an accurate count for our schools. The Census is much more than a U.S. population count every decade; it is a massive data collection that provides critical information to ensure our schools – as one beneficiary – get the most funding and support possible from state and federal sources. It only serves us better knowing how many people live in our city, state and nation.

For example, data collected in the 2020 Census will inform the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds for more than 100 programs, including school lunches and education, to states and communities each year.

Results of the census impact funding for things like: schools and education, health care facilities, housing assistance, public transportation, child and adult food assistance programs, assistance for people transitioning out of homelessness, career and technical education grants, and Medicare Part B.

Businesses, community leaders, and local governments use census data to create jobs, ensure public safety preparedness, and support community initiatives.

The count of our kids is especially important. The 2020 Census helps determine which areas qualify for the critical resources that children and families depend on for the next 10 years — basically an entire childhood!

But consider this: An estimated 5 percent of kids under the age of five were missed in the 2010 Census. At about 1 million babies and young children, that’s the largest undercount of any age group!!!

We must COUNT THE KIDS!

The Census – as an effort to count well over 300 million people – is a massive undertaking. And so Atlanta Public Schools is on board to help create awareness and assist in our small way in the count with targeted outreach to APS families and stakeholders.

Working with Georgia Voices for Children, we have participated in Public Service Announcements, which we will also air on WABE, WPBA and our social media channels. We have also prepared emails, posters, and articles to get the word out.

So here are some other critical instructions.

In mid-March, homes across the country will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census. By April 1, 2020, you will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.

You should respond at the address where you are living or staying on Census Day — April 1, 2020.

The 2020 Census marks the first time you will be invited to respond online — even on your mobile device. You can respond by phone or mail — they’re secure, too — but going online is a great option, because it is:

  • Convenient: You can respond from anywhere, at any time, using a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. You just need to be connected to the Internet.
  • Easy: When you respond online, the website will guide you through each question on the 2020 Census and provide more information if you need it.
  • Secure: All responses submitted online are encrypted to protect personal privacy. Once responses are received, they are no longer online.

How to respond online is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. In March 2020, your household will receive an invitation in the mail to respond online.
  2. Visit 2020census.gov to access and complete the census questionnaire.
  3. You’re done!

Census takers will visit homes in April to conduct quality check interviews and to help collect responses. In May, they will follow up in person with homes that have not responded to the census.

All responses are confidential and protected by law. Your personal information can never be shared with law enforcement agencies or property managers, and it cannot be used against you in any way. If you have any questions, contact the Atlanta Regional Census Center at 470-889-6800.

Revisiting APS School Calendars: Survey Results Are In!

Few things affect our lives in the same ways as a school calendar. What else influences us more about when we schedule vacations, family events or even doctor appointments? 

Because the school calendar literally outlines the lives of our students, their families and all of our employees, we in Atlanta Public Schools take great measures to gather input from our stakeholders before the Atlanta Board of Education approves an official calendar for any school year.

In 2018, we developed a robust process to develop calendars for both the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, which included feedback from a community-wide survey with more than 11,200 respondents; collaboration with a district-wide Calendar Committee, teacher advisory committee, district executive committee; and input from principals and the Schools & Academics division.

Even after that, comments kept coming as families and employees found they missed some of the breaks included in calendars of the past. Based on that response, we revisited parts of both calendars and surveyed the community again.

The recommended calendar for 2020-2021 features a start date on the second Monday in August and four-day weekends in October and February for students, with school ending prior to Memorial Day. We found considerable support for denoting October 12, 2020, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

For the 2021-2022 calendar, we found that since this calendar’s adoption in October 2018, a considerable number of stakeholders have asked for revision. The recommended options for changes included:

  • Option A (August 2nd first day of school; October and February breaks for students and teachers; May 27th last day of school)
  • Option B (August 9th first day of school; long weekends in October and February for students; May 26th last day of school)
  • Option C (August 9th first day of school; long weekends in October and February for students and teachers; May 27th last day of school)

This time, there were 13,131 respondents to the survey.  A majority of the responses were from parents at 43.36 percent, followed by employees at 35.72 percent.

Overwhelmingly, a majority of the respondents selected Option A at 65.75 percent, while 14.60% chose Option B and 19.66% chose Option C.

Calendar Survey Results by Cluster
Calendar Survey Results by Stakeholder Group

We will recommend the Board to adopt changes outlined in Option A, which will have the following features: Monday, August 2nd will be the first day of school. October and February have week-long breaks for students and a teacher professional learning day followed by four days off for teachers. Friday, May 27 will be the last day of that school year. The calendar also includes a week off in November for Thanksgiving, two weeks off for the Winter Holiday Break, and a week for Spring Break during the first full week April.

The Board plans to vote on revisions to both school calendars at its next meeting on Monday, March 2, at the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Learning and Leadership, 130 Trinity Avenue, Atlanta 30303.

Coronavirus Disease: What APS Families Need to Know

UPDATE: March 31, 2020: As part of APS’ commitment to the safety of students and employees, we sent letters to families and staff providing updates on the district’s response to COVID-19. The letter to families is available on our Coronavirus Update page here. The Spanish version is here.

UPDATE: March 20, 2020 – Deadline for APS Device Distribution is March 31 at 5 p.m.

For APS families who missed our original device distribution window for your child’s school, we are doing a “last call” this week for device pick up. If your child does not have a device, it is very important that you contact your child’s school by Tuesday, March 31 at 5 p.m. and let the school know that your child still needs a device. The District’s Technology team will assess those needs and make devices available for pick up starting on Thursday, April 2, at the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) at 130 Trinity Avenue SW, while supplies last. For requests properly submitted through the schools, you should expect to  receive a call sometime on Thursday giving instructions to pick up your child’s device at CLL beginning on Thursday afternoon. Only students with pre-assigned devices can be supported through this process, and you must have an appointment before coming to pick up a device. There will not be any extra devices. Also, all ‘last call’ distributions will end on Friday April 3rd.

The safety and health of our employees and the community is of utmost concern. Therefore, during this process, we continue to follow guidelines from public health officials. All devices will be pre-assigned to your child and they will be individually cleaned and packaged. 

ACTUALIZACIÓN: 30 de marzo de 2020La fecha límite de distribución de dispositivos de APS es el 31 de marzo a las 5 p.m.

Para las familias de APS que perdieron el periodo de distribución de dispositivos original de la escuela de su hijo, estamos haciendo una “última llamada” esta semana para la entrega de un dispositivo. Si su hijo no tiene un dispositivo, es muy importante que usted se comunique con la escuela de su hijo antes del martes, 31 de marzo a las 5 pm y que le informe a la escuela que su hijo todavía necesita un dispositivo. El equipo de Tecnología del Distrito evaluará esas necesidades y tendrá los dispositivos disponibles para la entrega a partir del jueves, 2 de abril en las oficinas centrales, Alonzo A. Crim Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) en 130 Trinity Avenue SW, hasta agotar existencias. Si las solicitudes son recibidas correctamente a través de las escuelas, usted recibirá una llamada durante el día jueves con instrucciones para que vaya a recoger el dispositivo de su hijo en CLL a partir del jueves por la tarde. Solo los estudiantes con dispositivos previamente asignados podrán recibir asistencia a través de este proceso, y usted deberá tener una cita antes de ir a recoger un dispositivo. No habrá dispositivos adicionales. Además, todas las distribuciones de ‘última llamada’ se finalizarán el viernes, 3 de abril.

La seguridad y salud de nuestros empleados y la comunidad es motivo de gran preocupación. Por lo tanto, durante este proceso, seguiremos las pautas del CDC y del Departamento de Salud Pública. Todos los dispositivos serán previamente asignados a los estudiantes y serán limpiados y empaquetados individualmente.     

UPDATE: March 26, 2020: Governor Brian Kemp announced today that all K-12 schools in Georgia will remain closed until at least Friday, April 24, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In keeping with the Governor’s order, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) will remain closed until at least Friday, April 24, until further notice. Please click here to review my memo dated March 23, 2020, for information and guidance on a number of key areas, including digital learning, device distribution, internet connectivity, health clinics, and more. As previously shared, we will be providing weekly updates on our response to COVID-19 on our website at www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus.

ACTUALIZACIÓN: 26 de marzo de 2020El gobernador, Brian Kemp, anunció hoy que todas las escuelas K-12 en Georgia permanecerán cerradas hasta al menos el viernes, 24 de abril, en un esfuerzo por evitar la propagación del COVID-19. De acuerdo con la orden del gobernador, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) permanecerá cerrada hasta al menos el viernes, 24 de abril, hasta nuevo aviso. Por favor haga clic aquí para revisar mi memorándum con fecha del 23 de marzo de 2020 para información y orientación sobre una serie de áreas clave, que incluyen el aprendizaje digital, la distribución de dispositivos, la conectividad a Internet, las clínicas de salud y más. Como se compartió anteriormente, proporcionaremos actualizaciones semanales sobre nuestra respuesta al COVID-19 en nuestro sitio web en www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus.

UPDATE: March 23, 2020: As part of APS’ commitment to the safety of students and employees, we sent letters to both families and staff providing updates on the district’s response to COVID-19. The letter to families is available on our Coronavirus Update page here. The Spanish version is here.

The letter to employees is available here.

UPDATE: March 22, 2020 – Listen to my NPR Weekend Edition radio interview about COVID-19 on teleschooling, challenges and our APS solutions at https://npr.org/2020/03/22/819725452/how-atlanta-public-schools-are-coping-with-the-pandemic….

More supportive news over the weekend: Uber is supporting local families by offering discounts on rides requested to and from the food distribution centers set up by APS. Uber is offering a 25 percent discount (up to $10) for trips taken to or from the District’s food pickup locations, beginning Monday through April 10* to assist with continued access to free meals.

The code “APS2020” will be available for use Monday through Friday during meal service times, 10 a.m. – noon, for any UberX or UberXL trip to or from the pickup location. To use it, riders enter the promo code “APS2020” in the Payment section of the Uber app.  Anyone under 18-years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

To redeem the ride discount:

  1. Open your app and tap “Payment” in your app menu
  2. Scroll down to Promotions
  3. Tap “Add Promo Code”
  4. Enter code APS2020 then tap “Add”
  5. Select any of the pickup locations listed above as your destination

*Maximum discount of $10 per ride. Maximum of 2 rides per rider per day on UberX and UberXL. Discount is valid for rides to and from the pickup locations linked above through 11:59 p.m. ET on April 10, 2020. To activate the promo code, apply it in the Uber app prior to requesting your ride. Discount does not apply to surcharges, government fees, tolls, or tips and cannot be combined with other offers or discounts. Offer is non-transferable. Offer and terms are subject to change without notice.

UPDATE: March 21, 2020 – Whitefoord Clinics will remain this week, same hours as last week.  They will continue to see most routine and urgent health needs. They will also begin offering telehealth behavioral health appointments for children and adults this week. For medical patients who do not want to come inside, there are some visit types, such as immunizations or strep throat tests, that clinicians can complete outside while patients wait in their cars. How awesome is that!

To assist patients and members of the community with respiratory symptoms, Whitefoord has established a hotline for screening– 470-427-2634 x 123—and testing for COVID-19 and flu. They also have website at https://www.whitefoord.org/covid19

Here’s the BEST PART: They can provide COVID-19 testing to APS staff if needed.  All an APS employee has to do is identify themselves to the phone screener so they can be prioritized. What a blessing! We get prioritized!!!! (However, they don’t have unlimited tests so they will do the best they can do.)

ACTUALIZACIÓN: 21 de marzo de 2020 – Esta semana Whitefoord Clinics tendrán los mismos horarios que la semana pasada. Continuarán atendiendo la mayoría de las necesidades de salud de rutina y de las urgentes. También esta semana comenzarán a ofrecerles citas de salud mental por teléfono a los niños y adultos. A los pacientes médicos que no desean entrar, hay algunas visitas, como de vacunas o pruebas de estreptococo, que los médicos pueden completar afuera mientras los pacientes esperan en sus autos . ¡Qué asombroso es eso!

Para ayudar a los pacientes y miembros de la comunidad con síntomas respiratorios, Whitefoord ha establecido una línea directa de detección:  470-427-2634 x 123  —Y pruebas del COVID-19 y de la influenza. También tienen sitio web en https://www.whitefoord.org/covid19 

Aquí está LO MEJOR: pueden hacerles pruebas del COVID-19 al personal de APS si es necesario. Lo único que tiene que hacer un empleado de APS es identificarse ante el monitor del teléfono para que se les pueda dar prioridad. ¡Que bendición! ¡¡¡¡Nos priorizan!!!! (Sin embargo, no tienen pruebas ilimitadas, por lo que harán lo mejor que puedan).

During times of crisis, nothing is more important in Atlanta Public Schools than the safety, security, and well-being of our students, families, and employees. Although there are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in APS at this time, Atlanta Public Schools is closed for an extended period of time for teleschooling and teleworking.

APS experienced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, March 19. Details are available here.

APS closely monitors all developments related to Coronavirus Disease or COVID-19, providing updates at www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus and in my blog below.

NOTE: Full Spanish translations of blog and updates are available below.

NOTA: Las traducciones completas al español del blog y las actualizaciones están disponibles a continuación.

UPDATE: March 17, 2020: APS will engage Phase II of its food distribution plan on Wednesday, March 18, with the addition of five new hubs at Hope-Hill Elementary, King Middle, Thomasville Heights Elementary, Washington High and Young Middle schools.

APS has also received approval to begin distribution along middle school bus routes in the Carver, Douglass, Jackson, Mays, Therrell, South Atlanta, and Washington clusters. The bus schedule is posted here.

Food is available for all Atlanta children under 18, even if they aren’t APS students.

UPDATE: March 16, 2020: With the first day of Atlanta Public Schools closing for teleschooling and teleworking, the district’s food distribution plan is underway. I visited all five sites today, and I am pleased with have approval to add more! I shared details of the plan with 11 Alive, WAOK 1380 AM Radio and V103 Atlanta.

Full details are available at www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus and in my latest letter to students and families, which is posted here.

UPDATE: March 15, 2020: I spoke with CNN anchors Christi Paul and Victor Blackwell to talk about COVID-19 and how to implement strategies for addressing food insecurities & distribution in our communities.

UPDATE: March 13, 2020: I appeared this morning on HLN’s “Morning Express with Robin Meade” to talk about the decision to close Atlanta Public Schools and efforts to feed children and families amid the closure.

I also called into WABE’s “Closer Look with Rose Scott” to provide more updates about our upcoming closure. Read more and listen here.

UPDATE: March 12, 2020: Based on guidance by Gov. Brian Kemp today, Atlanta Public Schools will close next week. However, everyone needs to work and class tomorrow, Friday, March 13, to prepare for an extended leave that starts Monday, March 16.

We anticipate the district will be closed for two weeks and potentially beyond Spring Break.

UPDATE: March 12, 2020: I spoke with “The Bert Show” on Q99.7 FM this morning. Hear the interview here.

UPDATE: March 11, 2020: Atlanta Public Schools continues to closely monitor Coronoavirus developments here and across the nation; there remains no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our district. I spoke today with Rose Scott of WABE’s “Closer Look” program to explain how APS is taking preventative measures with this health-related concern. I also talked about plans to continue learning even if students and teachers might not be in school.

I will be calling into “The Bert Show” on Q99.7 FM tomorrow, March 12, at 7:50 a.m. to talk more about the APS’ emergency response plan. Tune in at http://thebertshow.com/listen/

We also held today an APS Meetup, which was a live interactive chat on our internal APS Xchange site. Led by our COVID-19 Task Force, we discussed plans with employees and addressed their concerns.

Our employees can access the discussion here.

UPDATE: March 10, 2020: There are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Atlanta Public Schools. Our schools and District offices are open today, but we are closely monitoring all developments and continue to take this health-related concern very seriously. In the meantime, we are disinfecting our schools every evening and have provided additional sanitizer for every school. You can find the latest APS guidance and information at: https://www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus

UPDATE: March 9, 2020: As part of APS’ commitment to the safety of students and employees, we sent letters to both families and staff providing APS guidance on prevention, student attendance, student enrollment, re-entry of students, field trips, school facilities, athletic competitions and who to call in light of COVID-19. Both were distributed to all APS families today.

The letter to families is available on our Coronavirus Update page here.

The letter to employees is available here.

UPDATE: March 6, 2020: I spoke with 11 Alive’s Jeff Hullinger about efforts in Atlanta Public Schools to monitor and respond to the Coronavirus. Click here for video of that interview.

UPDATE March 5, 2020: APS is committed to ensuring that all students remain safe and healthy in our schools. Effective hand washing practice, which we fully endorse, is one of the greatest steps to preventing illnesses.  Washing hands with soap, running water (warm or cold), and scrubbing for a minimum of 20 seconds helps to avoid sickness and spreading germs.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The temperature of water does not appear to affect microbe removal; however, warmer water may cause more skin irritation.” To minimize the possibility of scalding, student restrooms are provided with cold water and hot water is provided in all clinic areas, kitchens, custodial sinks, gym, science labs and adult restrooms.

We will continue to encourage standard precautions and evidence-based hand hygiene practices within our schools. To stay abreast of developments with COVID-19 and other emerging health news in APS, visit our health alerts page.

To keep track of the spread of COVID-19, John Hopkins maintains an interactive map and site here.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen on CNBC talking about Coronavirus response in school districts (March 4, 2020)

POSTED: February 27, 2020: During times of crisis, nothing is more important in Atlanta Public Schools than the safety, security, and well-being of our students, families, and employees. I want to assure everyone that APS is closely monitoring all developments related to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

As described by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that mainly spreads from person to person (within about six feet) through coughs and sneezes. The virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. You can access the CDC resource page here.

The World Health Organization provides a few protective measures against the new coronavirus:

  1. Wash hands frequently with soap and water. Hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of 60% or greater can also be used
  2. Maintain social distancing – at least three feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing
  3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  4. Practice respiratory hygiene (cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then discard tissue immediately)
  5. Do not report to school or work if you are ill
  6. If you experience symptoms, get medical care early!

Here is what we also know at this time: The CDC this week issued a warning that it is not a question of IF Coronavirus Disease will spread to the United States, but WHEN.

Just this morning, I read news reports that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for all schools in his country to be closed through the spring holidays. This unprecedented move – which keeps 13 million students at home – is part of an effort there to combat the further spread of the virus.

As an educator – even one 7,000 miles away from Japan – that gives me concern and pause.

So again, as with any emergency situation – inclement weather, health warnings, etc. – APS stands at the ready to institute our emergency management practices, which is explained on previous blogs here and most recently here.

If we have to close schools, we can also launch APS WeatherWise, our online learning platform designed to prevent learning loss by supplementing missed classroom time during emergency management situations through technology. This is what we mean by “teleschooling.” If it comes to extending school closures for the longer term, we are looking into more ways to expand services including providing access to instructional materials and essential items such as food.

These kinds of services will require more planning, which is ongoing.

I should also make it clear that Atlanta Public Schools is not the expert authority on this issue. As such, many of the decisions and plans around quarantines or school closures will be led by the federal government with assistance from state emergency management officials. We have already received guidance from those agencies – which include the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the Fulton County Board of Health (BOH), and the CDC – and are incorporating key components into our emergency management practices. 

We will continue to provide updated information to students, families, and employees as we receive directives from local, state, and federal health officials. To stay abreast of developments with COVID-19 and other emerging health news in APS, click here to visit our health alerts page.

Additionally, it has never been more important than now for you to log into the campus portal for parents and update your preferences for emergency notifications, which include robo-calls, text messages and e-mails. Visit the portal at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/CPP.

We understand our school community’s desire for timely information, and we will do our very best to balance this desire with the need for coordinated community-wide emergency planning in these situations.

As always, please be safe!

Enfermedad por coronavirus: lo que las familias de APS necesitan saber

ACTUALIZACIÓN: 13 de marzo de 2020: Esta mañana me presente en “Morning Express with Robin Meade” de HLN para hablar sobre la decisión de cerrar Atlanta Public Schools y los esfuerzos para alimentar a niños y familias durante el cierre.

ACTUALIZACIÓN: 12 de marzo de 2020: Basado en la orientación hoy del gobernador. Brian Kemp, Atlanta Public Schools cerrarán la próxima semana. Sin embargo, todos deberán ir a trabajar y a la escuela mañana, viernes 13 de marzo, para prepararse para una licencia extendida que comenzará el lunes,16 de marzo.

Anticipamos que el distrito estará cerrado por dos semanas y posiblemente después de las vacaciones de primavera.

ACTUALIZACION: 11 de marzo de 2020: Atlanta Public Schools continúa monitoreando de cerca los desarrollos del Coronoavirus aquí y en todo el país; no hay casos confirmados de COVID-19 en nuestro distrito. Hablé hoy con  Rose Scott del programa de  WABE “Closer Look”  para explicar cómo APS está tomando medidas preventivas por esta preocupación relacionada con la salud. También hablé sobre los planes para seguir aprendiendo incluso si los estudiantes y los maestros no estén en la escuela.

También hoy celebramos un APS Meetup, un chat interactivo en vivo en nuestro sitio interno de APS Xchange. Dirigidos por nuestro Grupo de Trabajo COVID-19, discutimos los planes con los empleados y tratamos sus inquietudes.

Nuestros empleados pueden acceder a la discusión aquí.

Actualización: 10 de marzo de 2020: No hay casos confirmados del Coronavirus en Atlanta Public Schools. Nuestras escuelas y oficinas del Distrito estarán abiertas mañana. Estamos vigilando de cerca todos los acontecimientos y seguimos tomando muy en serio esta preocupación relacionada con la salud. Pueden encontrar la última guía e información de APS en: https://www.atlantapublicschools.us/coronavirus

ACTUALIZACION (9 de marzo de 2020): Como parte del compromiso de APS con la seguridad de los estudiantes y empleados, enviamos cartas tanto a las familias como al personal proporcionando orientación de APS sobre la prevención, asistencia de estudiantes, inscripción de estudiantes, reingreso de estudiantes, excursiones, competiciones atléticas y a quién llamar debido al COVID-19. Ambas fueron distribuidas a todas las familias de APS hoy en día.

La carta a las familias está disponible en nuestra página de actualización de Coronavirus  aquí.

La carta a los empleados está disponible aquí .

ACTUALIZACION(6 de marzo de 2020): Hablé con Jeff Hullinger de 11 Alive sobre los esfuerzos de Atlanta Public Schools para monitorear y responder al Coronavirus. Haga clic  aquí  para el video de esa entrevista.

En tiempos de crisis, nada es más importante en Atlanta Public Schools que la seguridad y el bienestar de nuestros estudiantes, familias y empleados. Quiero asegurarles a todos que APS está monitoreando de cerca todos los desarrollos relacionados con la enfermedad por coronavirus (COVID-19).

Según lo descrito por los Centros para el Control de Enfermedades (CDC), la enfermedad por Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) es una enfermedad respiratoria que se propaga principalmente de persona a persona (dentro de unos seis pies) a través de la tos y los estornudos. El virus que causa COVID-19 se identificó por primera vez durante una investigación sobre un brote en Wuhan, China. Puede acceder a la página de información del CDC aquí.

La Organización Mundial de la Salud (World Health Organization) proporciona algunas medidas de protección contra el nuevo coronavirus:

  1. Lavarse las manos con frecuencia
  2. Mantener el distanciamiento social: al menos a tres pies de cualquier persona que esté tosiendo o estornudando
  3. Evitar tocarse los ojos, la nariz y la boca.
  4. Practicar la higiene respiratoria (cubrir la boca y la nariz con el codo o pañuelo doblado cuando tosa o estornude)
  5. Si experimenta síntomas, ¡obtenga atención médica temprano!

En este momento, también sabemos lo siguiente: esta semana el CDC emitió una advertencia de que no se trata de que la enfermedad por coronavirus se propague a los Estados Unidos, sino CUANDO.

Justo esta mañana, leí informes de noticias de que el primer ministro japonés, Shinzo Abe, ha pedido que todas las escuelas de su país cierren durante las vacaciones de primavera. Esta medida sin precedentes, que mantendrá a 13 millones de estudiantes en casa, es parte de un esfuerzo para combatir la propagación del virus.

Como educadora, incluso a 7,000 millas de distancia de Japón, eso me preocupa y me hace reflexionar.

De nuevo, como en cualquier situación de emergencia (inclemencias del clima, advertencias de salud, etc.), APS está preparado para instituir nuestras prácticas de manejo de emergencias, lo cual se explica en blogs anteriores que puede ver aquí y el más recientemente aquí.

Si tuviéramos que cerrar las escuelas, también podríamos lanzar APS WeatherWise, nuestra plataforma de aprendizaje en línea, diseñada para prevenir la pérdida de aprendizaje al complementar el tiempo perdido en el salón de clases durante situaciones de manejo de emergencias a través de la tecnología. Esto es lo que queremos decir con “teleescuela”. Si se trata de extender el cierre de escuelas a largo plazo, estamos buscando más formas de expandir los servicios, incluido el acceso a materiales de instrucción y artículos esenciales como alimentos.

Estos tipos de servicios requerirán más planificación, de los cuales son continuos.

También quiero aclarar que Atlanta Public Schools no es la autoridad experta en este tema. Como tal, muchas de las decisiones y planes sobre cuarentenas o cierres de escuelas serán dirigidos por el gobierno federal con la asistencia de funcionarios estatales de gestión de emergencias. Ya hemos recibido orientación de esas agencias, que incluyen el Departamento de Educación de Georgia (GaDOE), el Departamento de Salud Pública de Georgia (DPH), la Junta de Salud del Condado de Fulton (BOH) y el CDC, y estamos incorporando componentes claves en nuestras prácticas de manejo de emergencias.

Continuaremos brindando información actualizada a estudiantes, familias y empleados en cuanto recibamos directivas de funcionarios de salud locales, estatales y federales. Para mantenerse al tanto de los desarrollos con COVID-19 y otras noticias de salud emergentes en APS, haga clic aquí para visitar nuestra página de alertas de salud.

Además, ahora es más importante que nunca que usted inicie sesión en el portal del campus portal para padres y actualice sus preferencias para notificaciones de emergencia, que incluyen llamadas automatizadas, mensajes de texto y correos electrónicos. Visite el portal en http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/CPP.

Entendemos el deseo de nuestra comunidad escolar de obtener información de una manera oportuna, y haremos todo lo posible para equilibrar este deseo con la necesidad de una planificación coordinada de emergencia en toda la comunidad en estas situaciones.

Como siempre, ¡manténgase seguro!

Take the ‘Be Like the Congressman Challenge.’ Love (and Hug) like John Lewis!

For the last five years, Atlanta Public Schools has really focused on educating the whole child to ensure they have the kind of skills they need to have full and enriching lives. If students can persevere – set goals, overcome obstacles and develop healthy relationships – we know they will be more successful in work and in life. We call the work social and emotional learning or SEL.

To me, few things demonstrate strong social and emotional learning skills as a hug. The research shows that hugs reduce stress, boost heart health, reduce fears and pain, and improve communications. Celebrated family therapist Virginia Satir said: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

A hug is comforting. A hug is warm. A hug is love.

For me, I learned about hugging from my bear-hugging dad!

And few people hug – I mean really hug – like Congressman John Lewis.

I have personally received many hugs from Congressman Lewis. But you should really go back and watch him hugging Barack Obama at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, and you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Hugs … and love … like that have changed the world!

Last year, our wonderful SEL team created a brilliant book-of-the-month club – SEL Reads – to encourage everyone in the district to read books that promote different SEL skills and themes and hugs. The team not only created compelling lists for each grade level – which include such books as Night by Elie Wiesel, One Crazy Summer by Sharon Draper and Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts (featured in this year’s State of the District) – but also some amazing lesson plans and compelling programs.

For example, Matthew Cherry, author of Hair Love, honored APS with a districtwide author visit with 30 elementary schools last September. The short film based on his book won an Oscar last week!

Along comes February and the featured book for our high school students is the first book of the graphic novel trilogy March, written by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Not only is this right in sync with Black History Month but a prelude to Random Acts of Kindness Week, which started on Sunday, Feb. 16.

March provides a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ experiences in the Civil Rights movement with the first book covering his childhood in rural Alabama, his first meetings with Dr. Martin Luther King and the sit-ins that were part of the Nashville Student Movement. The SEL skills in the book revolve around problem-solving, self-reflection and responsible decision- making.

As part of the detailed lesson plans, students are asked to take the “Be Like the Congressman Challenge,” which encourages APS high school students to consider problem-solving in their own lives. The challenge specifically asks students to record a short clip on how they could follow in John Lewis’ footsteps and contribute to real change in the world.

Imagine the joy we can bring to Congressman Lewis if many of our students took this challenge and tweeted it out to him! Along with our “Five 5Ks in Five Months in Congressional District 5” campaign against pancreatic cancer, it would be the biggest hug we could give a man who practically re-invented the hug!

#APSReads4SEL

#SELBookoftheMonth

#BeLikeTheCongressman

#HUGlikeJohnLewis