Atlanta Public Schools is considering mandatory summer school aimed at helping students who suffered setbacks in their learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a top district official.
The plan, proposed February 1 at an Atlanta Board of Education meeting, has not been decided upon yet, but would focus on the unfinished learning dating back to March 2020 when schools first closed, Superintendent Lisa Herring said.
Students across the country have spent much of the last year learning remotely in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, and many worry that the disruption has left them with a lesser education and developmental experience.
Though some teachers question if it is safe yet to return, officials in cities across the country are pressing to bring students back into the classroom and make up for lost time.
“When we’re able to identify those students who are not proficient and above, and we know that they’ve had disrupted learning and that there has been loss, shouldn’t we be thinking about the necessity of keeping them in front of us so that we could support and accelerate closing that gap?” Herring said. “And that represents a very specific population.”
That population includes vulnerable students from an educational and socio-economic perspective among the 51,000 students across 87 schools and five programs in the district, Herring said. To that end, she said the district is looking not only at summer programming but the entire school year calendar.
“We’re looking at the calendar. I think we have to,” Herring said. “We started with four weeks where we’ve said, throughout the full day, with a focus on quality instruction and intervention and monitoring, and also enrichment and well-being.”
Strike threats and lawsuits
Some in-person classes have resumed in Atlanta, while elsewhere in the US, school districts, their teachers and unions are trying to figure out the right circumstances for a return to classrooms.
On Wednesday, Chicago Teachers Union members will vote on a proposed framework for reopening after the union negotiated with and threatened a strike against the Chicago Public School System and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who were pressing for a return to in-person instruction.
CTU said that teachers wanted to return as well, but not at the health risk for themselves, their families and their students.
The proposed framework has pre-K and cluster students returning Thursday, K-5 staff returning February 22 and their students the next week. Grades 6-8 staff will return March 1 with students returning March 8, Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the state’s legislature for a $6.6 billion package to get students, teachers, and staff safely back into classrooms, he announced Monday.
Decision-makers have been discussing plans for the past several weeks and are nearing a resolution that would focus first on the youngest and most vulnerable students and move through the rest as possible.
The package follows the city of San Francisco suing its own school district Wednesday to get schools to reopen their campuses. A tentative agreement was reached Sunday to reopen if the city is in the orange tier of the state’s reopening criteria, or if it is in the red tier and vaccines are made available to teachers.
The district would also provide personal protective equipment for students and staff, socially distanced classrooms and workspaces and regular testing, among other safety protocols.
“This is a major step forward toward a goal that we share with so many parents: safe reopening of school buildings for students and staff,” said the unions representing workers in the San Francisco Unified School District.
In another initiative, 26 states plus Washington, DC are allowing some or all of their teachers and school staff to receive coronavirus vaccines so has to hasten in-person classes.
In West Virginia, all teachers over the age of 50 who said they wanted the vaccine have already received it, according to Gov. Jim Justice. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has set a plan to have all teachers vaccinated by the end of February, with the goal of all students returning to classrooms by March 1.