Updated 7/23: Buckhead Schools Prepare To Resume Classes Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Sudden and involuntary home-schooling this past Spring was a fact of life for every family in Buckhead with school-age children. It changed routines, careers, and family dynamics. With the traditional start of school just a month away, parents and students are wondering… what will the 2020-2021 school year look like? Preventative measures, social distancing, virtual learning, masks and sanitizer, these are all parts of the puzzle that schools around our community are piecing together to enable a return to classes for local students this fall. 

When things got bad and our state went into lockdown in March many local institutions moved to virtual learning or cancelled their coursework altogether. After the initial exuberance that I am sure kids felt when learning that they were on an extended break the sad reality hit: this meant no sports, no clubs, no socializing, no proms, and no graduations. Parents scrambled to piece together life in the new normal while juggling remote work and job losses. I think it’s safe to say that many of us are eager for in-person classes to resume this fall for our own reasons. 

Now, in the heat of summer, Buckhead schools are grappling with safety concerns for the students, parents, teachers, and administrators who will be returning to campus during a pandemic with no vaccine in sight. This post is intended to serve as a kind of landing page for local families, outlining the efforts of both public and private schools in our neighborhoods and sharing updates as they are made available. 

Atlanta International School

Information online is sparse, but a recent letter from Kevin Glass, the Atlanta International School Head of School, has indicated that they do intend to return to on-campus classes in August. 

Update: On Friday, July 17 a statement was updated on the AIS website that indicates parents will have a choice to make for the first four weeks; either return to campus on August 18 or choose virtual learning. That survey, due by July 29, will repeat every month throughout the school year, offering parents the option to change their minds about sending their kids in person or keeping them home as situations develop.

Reopening guidelines include daily screening, mandatory masks for employees and students inside campus buildings aside from during mealtimes, gym, and outdoor play, additional face shields for educators when in close quarters with students, social distancing measures, no parents or visitors allowed on campus, cleaning, sterilizing, a pod system, and contact tracing for suspected and confirmed sick individuals. 

Atlanta Public Schools 

All schools that fall under the Atlanta Public Schools jurisdiction are subject to certain rules and regulations set out by the city. 

Update: On Friday, July 10, APS announced that they will delay their first day of classes until August 24, and will begin with at least 9 weeks of virtual learning or until we face minimal/moderate spread. 

Update: On Thursday, July 16, APS released a Reopening Strategy Presentation outlining their proposal and reasoning for reopening this fall. Read more.

They have designated three reopening scenarios that will be determined by current health guidelines. Those include traditional face-to-face reopening if transmission is low or nonexistent, substantial spread in the community would require virtual learning, and minimal to moderate spread would allow for a hybrid model with limited campus attendance, virtual learning, and alternating schedules. 

Precautions for in-person learning include distribution of tables in classrooms and cafeterias to allow for appropriate distance between students, signage to enforce distance while waiting in lines or moving through the buildings, adjusted schedules to allow for smaller groups of students in hallways between classes, and masks required for all students and employees while in the building. The district will provide personal protective equipment including masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and thermometers for screening. Advanced cleaning protocols will be enforced to ensure that work stations and facilities are clean. Students and employees will be subjected to daily questionnaires outlining any possible exposure before entering the buildings. 

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

A June 19 letter from Paul Barton, Holy Innocents’ Head of School, designates August 13 as their projected start date for the fall semester. A committee of administrators and consultants are reviewing a variety of scenarios as they construct an official Back-to-School Plan which will be released in the coming weeks. While details remain unpublished, Barton is aiming for a full return to campus in August.

Pace Academy

Pace Academy‘s official first day of school, August 12, will come with certain new regulations and precautions. Pace is requiring all employees to get tested, all students, faculty, and staff will be subjected to daily temperature checks, efforts will be made to ensure social distancing, masks will be required except when eating or drinking, hand sanitizer and masks will be available throughout the campus, visitors will be limited, student travel will be put on hold, tighter security measures enacted, and thorough disinfecting and cleaning will be continued throughout the facility. Should conditions necessitate the shift to virtual learning, students will be able to participate using Zoom. 

The Galloway School

Offering some of the most in-depth guidance as to preventative measures, the Galloway School has brought together four reopening task forces to assess risk and generate regulations for safety when classes resume on August 19. There are four color-coded phases that outline levels of risk and the school’s response in those circumstances. 

Update: As of July 17, Galloway is planning to return to on-campus learning for a first day on August 20, pending  

Following CDC guidelines, the school will post signs outlining symptoms for early detection, ensure frequent cleaning of high contact surfaces, limit in-person events and meetings, formulate an emergency plan for possible outbreak, assess circumstances for higher risk individuals, enforce temperature checks upon entering buildings and screening questionnaires, allow an amended sick policy, restrict visitation for parents on campus, enact an isolation policy for those showing symptoms, maintain a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment such as masks which will be required at times depending on phase, adjust transitions between classes to reduce risk of transmission, limit aftercare activities and no tutoring on campus, as well as offer mental health help for students and staff who are struggling. 

Trinity School

Trinity School is not currently planning for any school closure and will update students in the MyTrinity message boards if changes in the status of COVID-19 affect the school’s reopening plans. Information available on their website does include protocols for keeping sick students home with additional flexibility on absence policy, mandated quarantines after international travel, distance learning and business continuity plans should they become necessary occasionally or for an extended period. 

Westminster 

The Westminster website outlines a framework for a return to face-to-face learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

There are six primary protocols designed to limit exposure, and those are as follows: enforcing social distancing through modified classroom layout and limited class size, approved two-layer cloth and disposable paper masks required for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors, frequent directed hand washing and sanitizing throughout the day and at the entrance to every classroom, a full disinfection of campus facilities daily, screening for everyone on campus, testing available to students at no cost, restrictions for certain athletics and performing arts activities which will be communicated once decisions are finalized, and an academic support system in place for students who have been exposed to the virus and cannot attend on-campus schooling.

Update: Families will be given the option to select either in-person or remote learning for their students every two weeks throughout the school year, allowing parents to make choices that suit their circumstances as things change and develop with the virus. Contract tracing will ensure that any active cases or presumed sick individuals can be tracked as they come into close contact with others.  

On mobile, scroll side to side in the chart below to see the protocols for individual schools:

School Remote Learning Masks Required Screening Sanitizing Social Distancing
Atlanta International School
Brandon Elementary School
E. Rivers School
Garden Hills Elementary
Pace Academy
Sarah Smith Elementary
Sutton Middle School
The Galloway School
Trinity School
Westminster