After two months of COVID-19 isolation & self-distancing, we need – more than ever – 24 hours to all

For nearly two months, we in Atlanta Public Schools have asked our community for patience and understanding as we work hard to get virtual learning right and continue to support our families. It has been a challenging, daunting, and grueling process for all of us as we have had to embark on a whole new world of education and societal norms … apart through social distancing.

The uncertainty has been, at times, terrifying… because something is happening that we don’t understand and is beyond our control. But it’s something that demands the best of us. Something that reminds us that we need each other.

As someone who has been in the social emotional learning space (SEL) for more than 10 years and leading a district that has made SEL a priority for the last six, I have learned that we have to learn to take a moment every now and then. That moment must be a pause for reflection and reconnection – a reminder that we are in this together.

During this time, I have regularly turned to one of our strongest partners – the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL) and its chair, Tim Shriver – because they helped us rebuild our culture in APS. Tim and I, along with others, have founded this new effort – one designed to reach out across the world to help us support each other in this unprecedented time.

It’s the Call to Unite.

Starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 1, the Call to Unite will launch a 24-hour global livestream event that invites people around the world to celebrate hope for a new future together. This livestream event is a global opportunity to stand in solidarity with those experiencing pain, fear, loneliness, and grief – and offer hope and support as we build a new future together.

Throughout the event, global leaders — from former presidents to Oprah to Julia Roberts to  Common to Deepak Chopra — will join participants from around the world in sharing practices, faith, songs, reflections, and more to help people turn the pain of this moment into possibility for tomorrow.

You are welcome to join us if you would like to support the effort by visiting the website

This is also an opportune moment to remind our community of the many ways Atlanta Public Schools has stepped up to support our students, their families, and our community.

We continue to maintain an extensive food distribution network that provides more than 160,000 meals each week. Full up-to-date details are available at

Our Social Emotional Learning, Counseling, and Social Work Departments provide daily SEL skill-building activities to students, check-ins with students and families, virtual lessons and webinars, resources for Wellness and Emotion Regulation, and connect families with community agencies.

The district through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides several employee resources to help them and their families maintain physical, financial, and emotional well-being during this challenging and unpredictable time. In addition, our SEL department hosts Wellness Wednesdays and SELf-care Fridays at 1:30 p.m. weekly for all staff.

We are sending every APS family a survey card to help us determine their needs and identify community partners who can help. Look for it over the next week. We need our families to take a moment to complete the survey and send it back to us as soon as possible. There is a QR code on the survey you can use to take the survey online or simply drop the completed card in the mail. (Please note: This survey was produced before the COVID-19 crisis and can no longer be returned to your school. Please complete the survey online or return the prepaid card by mail. We will share the information collected with our generous partners who match our community’s needs.)

And in partnership with the Whitefoord Foundation, the Whitefoord Health Clinics remain a valuable resource to our families for most routine and urgent health needs, including COVID-19 testing. Telehealth appointments are available and some visits such as immunizations or strep throat tests, can be done while you wait in your car. Call their hotline number, (470) 427-2634 ext. 123, or visit them online at

REMEMBER: Starting at 8 p.m., Friday, May 1, I hope you’ll join me and an amazing group of the world’s master teachers, influencers, leaders, entertainers, and more for the Call to Unite’s 24-hour global stream-a-thon on how we can each and all answer the call. 

Sign up to join us at:  You’re invited to watch, to share, to heal, to cry, to applaud, to dance, to unite (and yes, to be silent too!). 

I can’t wait! #answerthecall

For more coverage of the Call to Unite, see these links below:

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