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

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

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….

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

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 

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 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 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

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:

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

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:

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

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!





For Deeper Dive into Black History Month, Just Look at Our Schools

In February, we celebrate the immeasurable impact African-Americans have had on our society and even our individual lives. With such a rich deposit of American and Atlanta history, we really should recognize every month as Black History Month!

It’s inspirational every year during Black History Month to see the legacies of Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, George Washington Carver and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. revered and discussed.

We, too, in Atlanta celebrate them. In fact, many of our schools are named after extraordinary and well-known African Americans, not only Carver, Douglass and King but Maynard H. Jackson, Benjamin E. Mays and Booker T. Washington as well.

We have honored our schools by naming them after extraordinary women – Coretta Scott King, Michelle Obama, M. Agnes Jones, Margaret Fain, Leonora Precious Miles and Jean Childs Young – as I explored in this space last year.

During the transformation over the past few years in Atlanta Public Schools, we have had the opportunity to name or rename schools and buildings after living and local legends, including the Obamas, Congressman John Lewis, aviation industry pioneer Michael Hollis, the Tuskegee Airmen and Alonzo A. Crim, the first African-American superintendent for APS.

This year, I wanted to explore other APS schools, where the legacy and names of some of the most distinguished people in Atlanta and in American history are literally etched into those walls.


Boyd Elementary School – William Madison Boyd – As a renowned educator who taught at both Fort Valley State and Atlanta University, Boyd became known nationwide for his political writings, especially in support of the 1953 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In addition to his activism for equal access to education, he became a leader in the South for civil rights.


Bunche Middle School – Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) – Bunche was a political scientist, educator and diplomat best known for his mediation efforts in Israel in the late 1940s that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. He continued to serve on peacekeeping missions for the United Nations in the Middle East, the Congo, Cyprus and Bahrain.


Dobbs Elementary – John Wesley Dobbs (1882-1961) – Dobbs was a key civic and political leader from Atlanta who co-founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League in 1936, which registered more than 20,000 African Americans in Atlanta to vote over the subsequent 10 years. His activism paved the way for black men and women to hold city positions and government offices, including his grandson, Maynard H. Jackson, who became the city’s first mayor.


Charles Drew Charter School – Charles Drew (1904-1950) – Drew was an American surgeon and medical researcher. His expertise with blood transfusions contributed to the development of large-scale blood banks during World War II. He protested the practice of racial segregation in the donation of blood and resigned his position with the American Red Cross, which maintained such a policy until 1950.


Dunbar Elementary – Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) – As the son of freed slaves from Kentucky, Dunbar became one of the first influential black poets in American literature, known mostly for his dialectic verse but also for his versatility in style and also for his novels, short stories and essays.

Harper-Archer Elementary – Charles Lincoln Harper (1877-1955) and Samuel Howard Archer (1870-1941) – Harper was the first principal of Booker T. Washington High School when it opened in 1924. Samuel Howard Archer became president of Morehouse College in 1931 after teaching there for more than a quarter of a century.


Hope-Hill Elementary – Dr. John Hope (1868-1936) – Dr. Hope was the first African-American president of Atlanta University and Morehouse College, where he was instrumental in expanding the school to include a graduate program. Later, he became active in national civil rights organizations, including the Niagara Movement and later the NAACP.  


Toomer Elementary School – Fred A. Toomer (1889-1961) – Toomer was a well-known businessman and civic leader, who worked as a bellhop, a Pullman porter and an embalmer before becoming an insurance salesman with Atlanta Life Insurance Company. He quickly rose through the rank to eventually become chief auditor and a vice president.  He was active with the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, the United Negro College Fund and the YMCA.


Usher-Collier Heights Elementary – Bazoline Estelle Usher (1885-1992) – Usher was an American educator known for her work in APS as the director of education for African-American children before integration. She was the first African American to have an office at Atlanta City Hall. She founded the first Girl Scout troop for African-American girls in Atlanta in 1943. Her career as an educator lasted more than 50 years, most of which was in Atlanta schools.


Woodson Park Academy – Dr. Carter Woodson – Dr. Woodson was an American historian, author and journalist who founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. And it is appropriate that this list concludes with Dr. Woodson as he was one of the first scholars to study African-American history. As the founder of The Journal of Negro History in 1916 and for launching “Negro History Week” in 1926, he has been called the “father of black history.”

This list isn’t meant to be fully comprehensive or complete but designed to encourage more exploration into the many people who shaped the history of our schools, our city, our state and our nation!

I encourage everyone to delve deeper and take advantage of the fact that we are opening the APS Archives and Museum, located on the first floor of the Crim Center for Learning and Leadership, 130 Trinity Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday through the end of February.

Match & Fit: Achieve Atlanta’s Next Transformational Step

To this day, I remember the pent-up excitement I felt the morning of June 5, 2015, moments before a truly transformational announcement from Atlanta Public Schools. I counted the hours, minutes, seconds to when we could tell all of APS, Atlanta and the nation the news. Finally, we spelled it out in huge headlines.

My own blog headline read:

With support from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, the Woodruff Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Achieve Atlanta emerged with a clear, dynamic mission to dramatically increase the number of APS students graduating from high school and then entering and successfully graduating from colleges, universities and technical schools. This $20 million investment supported college counseling support and gap scholarships!

On that day, I described the initiative as “beautiful, bold and aggressive.”

I have rarely been as prescient as I was that day. The numbers bear the claim. Through four cohorts of APS students, 3,060 scholars have received Achieve Atlanta scholarships that total more than $18 million! They have been accepted at 248 colleges. Finally, APS’ college-going rate over that time has increased 11 percentage points with 62% of the 2018 cohort enrolled in two or four-year institutions.

Just in time for College and Career Motivation Week – comes another significant Achieve Atlanta announcement that should change the game even more to not only ensure our students go TO college but get THROUGH college.

This morning at Washington High School, our school counselors joined with Achieve Atlanta to unveil the Match & Fit List Builder, a first-of-its-kind online college advising tool.

As the video shows, the Match & Fit List Builder uses APS student-specific data to help students build lists of postsecondary options that best match their academic qualifications and fit their personal, social, and financial needs.

The Match & Fit List Builder provides students with important information about postsecondary institutions, including majors offered and estimated out-of-pocket cost for students with similar family incomes. The tool prioritizes schools based on graduation rates to ensure APS students are considering colleges and universities where they will have a better likelihood of success, including adequate support systems to help students overcome challenges that arise in college.

Screen shot of what an actual APS student might see in Match & Fit

As Tina Fernandez, executive director of Achieve Atlanta, further explained at the launch this morning, the Match & Fit List Builder helps students choose institutions where they are most likely to complete. When students consider all of their needs—academic, social, financial, and personal – in choosing their path after graduation, their chance of success dramatically improves.

The launch of this tool takes the impact of our partnership with Achieve Atlanta to an even higher level. Through this tool, students become empowered with the information they need to access, pursue and attain a postsecondary education. As counselors at Washington guided students through the tool, high school counselors across the district were also introducing APS students to this soon-to-be-essential advisement tool.

The tool is designed for use with all high school students, but for the rest of the year Achieve Atlanta and our counselors will work with current high school juniors. Next year, they will work with all high school students.

The financial and social emotional support Achieve Atlanta provides to thousands of our students every year has been transformational in our students’ lives, and we are so grateful for this impactful partnership.

Once again, I think we are experiencing the beginning of another transformational moment for Atlanta’s students!

Fuel Your Day! All APS students, families take full advantage of free meal program

As a school district educating students from mostly lower-income families, Atlanta Public Schools faces numerous challenges in ensuring children are ready for school each day, especially those who come to school hungry.

We’ve seen the research: Children whose nutritional needs are met throughout the day have fewer attendance and disciplinary problems and are more attentive in class.  According to the School Nutrition Association, a healthy meal in the morning boosts students’ academic performance, grades and test scores; increases concentration, alertness, comprehension and memory; and improves classroom behavior. 

We also know that more than half a million Georgia children suffer from what has become known as “food insecurity,” according to a 2018 bulletin by the advocacy group Voices for Georgia’s Children. In 2017, about one in five children in Georgia had limited or uncertain access to adequate food, according to the Feeding America. That’s slightly higher than the national rate.

So I could not be more excited when APS qualified this year for a national program that enabled us to provide free meals to ALL students! Through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), 77 of our schools now provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge with no meal applications!

Our Department of Nutrition has also implemented the Access to Breakfast for every Child (ABC) initiative that ensures that all elementary and middle school students are offered breakfast throughout the first hour of the school day.

For a district that serves more than 155,000 meals each and every week, that equates to feeding an additional 2,100 to 2,700 students every day!

As part of the stipulations of the program, APS is required to maintain certain participation levels to continue the program. While many students take advantage of the free breakfast and lunch meals at schools, overall student participation in breakfast and lunch needs to increase from the current districtwide percentage of 65% to 79%.

Getting to 79% participation districtwide will ensure the continued CEP designation for APS.

That’s why the district has launched a “Fuel Your Day” awareness campaign to get more students eating breakfast and lunch at school. In addition to educating our families about the need for good nutrition every day, we want to provide them with more options to just eating in the cafeteria. Our schools are trying out Grab & Go Carts, where students receive meals from carts located in the entrance hall or in each hallway and eat the meal on the way to class or in class. Our Breakfast in the Classroom program allows students to eat in other designated dining areas in school or even in classrooms with their teachers.

So Fuel Your Day … and this program … by having breakfast and lunch at school!

Breakfast Statistics:

According to the School Nutrition Association, current research demonstrates that school breakfast consumption has many positive proven benefits:

  • Boosts students’ academic performance, grades and test scores
  • Increases concentration, alertness, comprehension and memory
  • Improves classroom behavior
  • Reduces absenteeism and tardiness

School breakfast participation is also linked to:

  • A lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Lower probability of being overweight or obese
  • Improved diet quality Federal nutrition standards ensure school breakfast offers nutritious choices including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low fat milk while meeting limits on calories, unhealthy fat and sodium.


Click to access Breakfast-Benefits-final.PDF

APS Rocks + Runs 5K returns to Historic West End

District announces second annual edition of district fundraiser for Saturday, May 2, at Brown Middle School to kick off National Teacher Appreciation Week

Atlanta Public Schools will be off to the races again in May as it will sponsor its own 5K and fun run event for a second year!

With the success of APS Rocks and Runs last spring – more than 900 runners took to the streets of Historic West End for that inaugural race – the district today announces that it will hold the second annual edition of the 5K on Saturday, May 2, at Brown Middle School, 765 Peeples Street SW.

The event celebrates our schools and especially our teachers as a fundraiser event to kickoff National Teacher Appreciation Week. All proceeds will go towards APS teachers.

The race will feature a fun run for ages 4-11 yrs., special pricing for students, vendors and giveaways! Registration for both the 5K and fun run will include a race bib, commemorative T-shirt and finishers medal. Teachers and Instructional Paraprofessionals run for FREE. The race will begin at 8:30 a.m. The event hashtag is: #APSrocks5K

The race also serves as the final leg of the John Lewis Freedom Runners effort to raise $55,555 as part of the “Five 5Ks in Five Months in Congressional District 5” in honor of Congressman John Lewis to support those who are battling pancreatic cancer. I wrote about that effort here.

Get more details and sign up today at:

So get your jogging and walking teams together now and start training. APS participants are encouraged to wear school spirit gear, district apparel or the APS Rocks and Runs 5K T-shirt! The district also recently launched the official APS apparel store, so get decked out for the race! All proceeds go to APS!

Every race begins with a few steps. Here are a few tips to help you transition from the couch to knocking out your first 5K!