Atlas Public Schools Home

Preparing a generation for a lifetime of exploration

About Atlas

Atlas is a new elementary school in St. Louis for curious, creative, and compassionate kids.  We instill a love of learning while empowering our kids to build a healthy future for themselves, our community, and the world. 

~ As a kid, joining Atlas means learning through authentic real-world experiences and finding your joy in learning and discovery.
 
~ As a family, you will be part of a community that is rethinking how kids are educated, lighting a spark of curiosity in them that leads to a path of discovery so they are equipped to help make the world a better place. 
 
~ As an educator, you will ignite passions and purpose in kids, and be a catalyst for change in our community.

Get Involved

We'd love to hear from you if you'd like to get involved as a team member or founding family. Email us at backer@atlaspublic.org. 

Place-Based Learning

The major question facing schools across the county is how to best prepare our children for the ever-changing world they are entering. Students must develop the skills, understandings, and mindsets necessary to prepare them for the careers and challenges of tomorrow. We know that students need multiple and varied strategic opportunities to explore, practice, and perfect 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Children learn by doing and emphasizing hands-on, real-world experiences makes learning more meaningful to students and helps lessons stick. For these reasons, Atlas strives to connect lessons learned in the classroom with authentic, place-based learning experiences. 

Place-based learning is the process of using the local community and environment as both a starting point for inquiry and as a context for exploring and applying concepts and skills across the curriculum.  Place-based education weaves together concepts from English Language Arts, math, science, social studies, and the arts, rather than teaching them exclusively in isolation. 

Year-Round Education

Most public schools in the United States operate on a 10-month calendar, starting around September and ending in May or June. This school schedule became the default when children needed to work in the fields during the summer. However, the 10-month school calendar no longer fits the needs of most American children or families. The Atlas Founding Team conducted focus groups, met with parents one-on-one, and surveyed families--the vast majority of whom indicated that they struggle to find quality child care options during the summer months. In addition, many educators, including the Founders of Atlas, worry about a phenomenon known as the “summer slide”. This is the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. Research dated as far back as the 1980s era shows wider disparities in test scores between children from low-income and high-income families after the summer holiday. There is ample evidence showing that low-income children are especially vulnerable during summer months when they lose access to important social services such as food and childcare. 

In response to these academic and socio-emotional concerns, Atlas adopted a year-round school calendar, with seven academic sessions of roughly five weeks of class per session, separated by a two-week intersession break. During intersession breaks, families have access to community organizations for additional support for childcare, food, and other social services.  Intersession breaks also allow teachers and support the time to work collaboratively with their teams to internalize and strengthen lessons for the next academic session.  Atlas’ year-round calendar builds in 30 full days of teacher inservice each school year. 
 
Below is a draft of Atlas' 2021-2022 School Calendar.
 

Diverse-by-Design

We want to prepare our students for the world in which they live, by teaching them to talk, work, and respect those across lines of difference. Across America, schools are more segregated today than they were in the 1960s. This particularly rings true for schools in St. Louis, as segregation in schools is closely tied to segregation in housing patterns and attendance zone lines. Research that spans the past 50 years suggests that racial and socioeconomic integration is one of the best design principles for a successful school. Diverse schools produce high results for both students and society, and research shows all students benefit from learning in a diverse environment. By creating an intentionally diverse elementary school, Atlas’ staff and student population will reflect the diversity of our city across race, income, and cultural backgrounds. Our facility’s centralized location will allow us to recruit a diverse group of families who reside in and around the Central Corridor.   

However, our commitment to diversity extends beyond recruitment to our Anti-bias, Antiracist (ABAR) approach to curriculum and instruction, schoolwide practices that promote equity, and ongoing professional development for our team.  Ultimately, we will create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community that 1) serves as a model of what is possible in schools, businesses, and organizations throughout the St. Louis region. 2) prepares Atlas students to become allies, champions, and change-makers who are prepared with the skills and conviction needed to be effective leaders for equity throughout the city.  3) works together to accomplish our school’s mission and long-term vision.

Investing in Educators

To effectively execute our mission, we know that it starts with an incredible team of educators. In order to have thriving students, we need thriving teachers.  At Atlas, we work hard to provide our staff with an excellent educator experience, from scheduling and coaching, to resources and compensation.  For decades research has shown that human capital is the single most significant in-school factor for improving student achievement.  At Atlas, we seek to recruit, develop, and retain talented educators who maximize every student’s academic and personal potential.  

By providing significant resources and support, Atlas will develop, attract, and retain exceptional teachers, and equip them with the tools and infrastructure needed to help their students succeed.  By utilizing best practices, homeroom teachers at Atlas will receive: 
     ✦   a rigorous base curriculum, 
     ✦   two 50 minute plan times each day,
     ✦   designated time to internalize and customize their lesson plans, 
     ✦   time to participate in regular data team meetings,
     ✦   personalized coaching with feedback from a mentor, 
     ✦   a school calendar that builds in more than 30 full days for professional development and strategic planning.
 
While many of the items mentioned above are considered best practices, what puts teachers at Atlas on a different trajectory is the 30 full days of professional development that has been built into our school’s yearly calendar during intersession breaks and is reflected in our staff’s salary. For teachers, the first week of the intersession break will offer opportunities for professional growth. Teachers will have time to reflect on lessons, analyze data, and plan for the next academic cycle. Moreover, teachers will be able to participate in professional development opportunities that are aligned with the school’s strategic priorities and are designed to help them grow as educators. Each intersession also has vacation time built-in for staff, giving teachers more frequent opportunities to rest and grow stronger. By embedding more frequent opportunities for professional development as well as time off for staff, we are creating a more sustainable work-life balance for our team members.

In The News

2020 Summer Pilot Impact Report

In July 2020, the Atlas team piloted EL Education's remote curriculum with 30 children ages four and five living in St. Louis. Click on this link to learn more about what we found!

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