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APS starts new year with mask mandates, new scheduling

Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said the district is "exploring" the idea of a vaccine mandate.

ATLANTA — Several metro school districts are returning to the classroom Thursday, including Atlanta Public Schools. It comes with COVID-19 protocols and new start times for some students. 

Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said 600 students have opted into the Atlanta Virtual Academy, an option for those families who want to continue learning from home. That means the vast majority will be coming into the buildings. 

Students, staff and teachers will be required to wear masks while inside. 

"I think really what's most impactful is the fact that it's been 18-plus months for some of our scholars. It's not new to be in school. It's just a new normal for them to be back in school," Herring said. 

She added that they are focusing on a welcoming environment for everyone and will be doing what they need to be doing to keep them safe. 

Herring said that on Monday, APS will make the COVID vaccine available in the schools to all those students and staff that are eligible.

She said only 18 percent of APS students that are eligible for the vaccine have received the shot. Fifty-eight percent of the staff has been vaccinated, she added. 

"We need to see that number increase," Herring said. 

The second-year superintendent said the district is looking at data and "exploring" the option of a vaccine mandate. She said educating those who have not received the vaccine yet is most important. 

Herring said the schedule for the 2021-22 school year was adjusted in order to get the most out of the school day for some students. 

The district said the adjusted bell schedule is a "piece" of its overall Academic Recovery Plan. APS still plans to implement a new K-12 screener to recognize and identify students' learning needs, continue to utilize the Summer Academic Recovery Academy, and implement an "enrichment block."

Here is the new bell schedule for the upcoming year:

  • Elementary 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. (changed from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
  • Middle School 9:15 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. (Changed from 9:05 a.m. -4:05 p.m.)
  • High School 8:45 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. (changed from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m)