ATLANTA — Fulton County Schools is expanding its academic options for the first semester as rising COVID-19 cases have raised concerns about returning to in-person learning.
Currently the district has three options for instruction: face-to-face at all schools; Fulton Virtual in grades 6-12 with face-to-face and virtual classes; and Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence which offers a full virtual option for students in 3rd-11th grade.
Seniors have a variety of virtual options through dual enrollment and other existing programs if needed. Parents/students made their instructional preference last year.
With COVID cases rising over the summer, parents and students lobbied for more options this year.
Beginning Sept. 7, a K-8 learning hub will be opened at Crabapple Center (former Crabapple Middle School in Roswell), along with a K-2 Remote Learning Program giving parents more options beyond at-home or in-school.
Both programs will have limited capacity and are contingent upon the district’s ability to recruit staff without hurting existing schools, school officials said.
Superintendent Mike Looney said the two new options are “not perfect,” but provide a short-term effort to try and meet the needs of families.
“My decisions aren't predicated on politics, or scare tactics,” he said. “I want to make sure everybody's safe…instruction to be uninterrupted, and not pivoting to virtual every other week.”
K-8 Learning Hub – Roswell
Up to 500 students can be accommodated in the building which formerly housed Crabapple Middle School, 10700 Crabapple Road, Roswell. The newly built school opened this year on a new site off Woodstock Road.
Students will receive face-to-face instruction in all core classes (math, science, social studies, English/language arts). Connection classes (health, PE, world languages) will be coordinated through the district’s virtual program.
Masks remain optional for staff. Student masks will remain optional per parental agreement, unless otherwise mandated by a higher government authority. All other district mitigation strategies will remain in effect.
Any student eligible for enrollment in Fulton County elementary or middle schools can attend. Students can still participate in extracurricular clubs and activities at their zoned homeschool.
Because this is considered an “open enrollment” option, the school district will not provide transportation to and from the school. Meals will be delivered to the school daily.
Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones said the Learning Hub is a temporary solution that the district plans to close after the first semester. It could be extended, he noted, if COVID conditions warrant.
K-3 Remote Learning Plan
While face-to-face instruction remains the district’s preference for younger children, Jones said the ongoing pandemic requires providing virtual options.
“We acknowledge that there's a myriad of concerns that parents are navigating, which necessitated [new] options for young students,” he said.
The program will have 300 spots available, and parents have until Aug. 20 to apply for a seat. A lottery for admission will be held on Aug. 20.
The program opens on Sept. 7 and parents must commit to remaining in the program for the semester. Students will remain enrolled at their zoned home school.
All instruction will be delivered virtually on devices provided by the school district. Only the four core subjects will be taught (math, ELA, science and social studies) by a staff of 15 teachers. Instruction will range from 145 minutes a day for kindergartners up to 180 minutes a day for second grade students.
The remote learning plan is not a babysitting service for parents, and Jones said parents must commit to partner with their children during the entire process.
“It is imperative that the parents who sign their students up for this option understand that they will be part of their student's learning journey,” he noted. “These students are too young to learn on their own with a device.”
Looney said the programs are being funded by the federal assistance grants provided for COVID-related expenses. He also emphasized that the opening of either option hinges on teachers signing up to teach at either program.
“I think there's interest in this from teachers, but we'll have to wait and see the number of students and parent commitments we get over the course of this next week so that we can staff accordingly,” Looney said.
More information on these programs can found at fultonschools.org.