ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — For now, you won’t see any students walking the halls at Therrell High School, as they’re starting the school year off with virtual learning, along with all other schools in the Atlanta Public Schools system. Classes began this morning, after a regional Zoom outage was fixed.

Students in Ms. Odom’s virtual class at Therrell got a surprise on their first day of school: a visit from the new superintendent, Dr. Lisa Herring. She visited several schools on day one in person and virtually.

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“I just want to say how proud I am of you all,” she said to students in the class Zoom meeting.

Administrators and school board members say it was best to start the school year with remote learning because of COVID-19.  “It’s very necessary to protect and have the utmost safety for our families, our students ,our staff and our communities overall,” said Atlanta Public School Board Vice Chair Eshe’ Collins, who represents District 6.

“We miss our students,” said Dr. Herring. “We miss them, we miss the full capacity of staff. We miss the smiles that occur on day one.”

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Herring says, along with the summer learning loss, there’s now what she calls a COVID learning loss.

“It’s a challenge for us to consider: ‘What will the future look like in terms of teaching and learning?” she said.

Nine weeks from now, they hope to resume in-person classes for the roughly 52,000 students at the district’s 87 schools. Right now, there are no guarantees.  “We are watching the data tied to community spread. We are also keeping updated from the Department of Public Health and the guidance that comes with that,” said Herring.

Until then, they’re optimistic about the school year.

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“We’ll be able to move forward and really celebrate and be excited about the new chapter,” said Seat 8 School Board Member Cynthia Briscoe Brown.  Until the classrooms open again, Herring says the school system has provided resources for parents and students to navigate through this uncharted territory.