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APS 'slows pace' of in-person learning plan with staggered return through Feb. 16

Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade have been split into three groups who will return on Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and Feb. 16

ATLANTA — Many students of Atlanta Public Schools who were expecting to return to class in just days will now be waiting a little longer, following an announcement on Friday evening.

The school system announced that the student return to in-person learning, for those who opted in for it, will now be staggered for different grades.

APS Superintendent Lisa Herring said that the slower pace will allow more time for faculty and staff to "intensify and add to" the current strategies it has in place and "plan in anticipation of COVID-19 surveillance testing" that will be provided at schools.

In the newly-announced plan, students in pre-kindergarten through second grade and special education students will return as previously scheduled on Monday.

However, students in the third through the fifth grades will now return on Feb. 8. And students in grades six through 12 will now return on Feb. 16.

"I think this is an important and necessary step needed at this point in our Return+Learn plan,” Herring said.

The news comes as reopening schools to in-person learning remains a hot-button issue in Atlanta and around the metro. Just one week earlier, a group of Atlanta teachers even took to the streets in a socially-distant protest to push back against Atlanta's Feb. 25 reopening date. But, on the other side, some teachers have pushed back and insisted they be allowed an in-person option.

Other school systems such as Cobb County are dealing with COVID cases and even deaths. Family speaking with 11Alive has attributed the deaths of three educators in the county to COVID-19.

However, APS believes it is taking the right precautions to limit this type of potentially deadly spread.

"School administrators have worked with their school-based teams to develop unique safety plans that specifically address how in-person learning will work at each school," the system said in its announcement.

The school system also points to strict safety and mitigation guidelines from the state and county, including required screening and temperature checks, use of masks and face shields, social distancing and other hygiene and cleaning procedures.

"Additionally, the district has distributed personal protective equipment for students and employees to use when inside buildings," the announcement said.

A full list of strategies and protocols can be found on the APS Protects website.