What’s new at school this year?

07/30/2021 —Marietta, Georgia — Colorful balloons are displayed throughout Kincaid Elementary School during a meet and greet for kindergartners and first graders at the school in Marietta, Friday, July 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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07/30/2021 —Marietta, Georgia — Colorful balloons are displayed throughout Kincaid Elementary School during a meet and greet for kindergartners and first graders at the school in Marietta, Friday, July 30, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

New policies, leaders, buildings await K-12 and college students across metro Atlanta

The new school year begins Monday for tens of thousands of students across metro Atlanta. The fall semester begins at most area colleges in mid-August.

Here are some new things that students will see when they arrive in classrooms and on campus.

More security measures

The May shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has prompted many local school districts to revise their security. Cherokee, Cobb and Gwinnett have new visitor screening systems. Cobb will allow some employees, though not teachers, to carry firearms on school grounds.

Clayton County’s school district will spend $1.1 million to supply the district’s 51,000 students with clear backpacks in an effort to keep weapons off campuses. The policy will start later this school year.

Some teachers wearing masks

School districts in Clayton and Gwinnett counties recently announced they are requiring employees to wear masks because of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“This proactive step is being taken in an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our district and limit the potential for instructional disruption,” Clayton County officials said in a statement.

The requirement does not apply to students. Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill in March that allows parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates.

Changes in how some topics are taught

Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law new measures to control how race is discussed in K-12 classrooms. The law is aimed at stopping what Kemp and other Republican lawmakers say are divisive concepts, such as one race is inherently superior, moral character is racially determined or America is fundamentally racist. The law establishes a process to vet parents’ allegations that one or more of the concepts were taught.

New faces

There are many new principals across the region, particularly in Atlanta, Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett. Emory University has new deans of its schools of business and public health. Spelman College has a new president. Former CARE official Dr. Helene Gayle is replacing Mary Campbell Schmidt, who retired in June.

New buildings and schools

Clayton County is opening the newly constructed Morrow High School. Gwinnett is opening Seckinger High School. Gwinnett Technical College has a new building to support its computer sciences programs. The University of Georgia is completing the second phase of the I-STEM research complex in late August.

ExploreLive updates: News and notes from the schools that open on Monday
ExploreThe calendar: When is the first day of school in each district?

Here’s some of what’s new this school year at various school districts and colleges:

Agnes Scott College

The Decatur college for women was recently awarded a $750,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for a new initiative designed to research and elevate the lives of the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) artisans and workers who built the college’s campus and the city of Decatur. In addition, Agnes Scott is launching two new master’s degree programs in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Medical Sciences, and welcoming 80 graduate students into these programs this fall.

Atlanta Metropolitan State College

Atlanta Metropolitan State College is rolling out several new academic and student support offerings, such as a certificate in cybersecurity, an associate of science degree in financial technology, a bachelor of arts in film and entertainment studies, and expanded concentrations in the bachelor of science in organizational leadership.

ExploreBack to School in Atlanta Fall 2022: News, information and updates from the AJC education reporters

Atlanta Public Schools

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Frederick Douglass High School. (Vanessa McCray / AJC file photo)

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Frederick Douglass High School. (Vanessa McCray / AJC file photo)

Credit: Vanessa McCray

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Frederick Douglass High School. (Vanessa McCray / AJC file photo)

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Atlanta’s Frederick Douglass High School is opening a Ninth Grade STEAM Academy. The program will be based off-site at the former Fain Elementary School. Incoming freshmen will attend classes there instead of mixing with older students at the high school’s main Westside campus a few miles away.

It’s the first time Atlanta Public Schools has attempted this kind of a model for a separate high school campus. School leaders aim to provide more personalized support to ninth graders and limit the influences and distractions that they face.

Chattahoochee Technical College

The Superior Plumbing Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center will open this fall at the Chattahoochee Tech Marietta Campus. This facility will serve as a gateway for veterans and their families who are transitioning into postsecondary educational institutions and into the civilian workforce. The college will also have new programs in Brewing & Fermentation Production Technology, Paralegal Studies and Phlebotomy Technician.

Cherokee County Schools

A new group of officers are being assigned to serve only elementary schools. Cherokee will also have a new visitor management system to run background checks on all visitors.

Clark Atlanta University

The historically Black school has partnered with Google on an effort to create a pipeline to improve the company’s diversity. Thirty-two incoming students went through an intensive three-week program this summer through the university’s Google Academy to prepare for the fall semester. The students will have opportunities during their academic careers at Clark Atlanta to study abroad, earn Google certifications and do paid internships with the company, said Cherise Y. Peters, the university’s vice president for enrollment and retention. Other Clark Atlanta students will also have opportunities to earn Google badges and certifications.

Clayton County Schools

The school district has required employees to wear masks because of the rise in COVID-19 cases. It plans to spend an estimated $1.1 million to supply the district’s 51,000 students with clear backpacks in an effort to keep weapons off campuses. Also, the district is opening a newly constructed Morrow High School.

Cobb County

District leaders are taking several steps they hope will enhance safety this school year. They’ll have a new crisis alert system to allow all staff members to quickly report emergencies. In a move criticized by some board members, some Cobb employees — but not teachers — will be allowed to carry firearms. Cobb’s board promoted Osborne High School Principal Josh Morreale as its assistant superintendent for school safety operations.

DeKalb County Schools

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Students of Druid Hills High School show their support of school renovations outside of the DeKalb County School System Administrative and Instructional Complex during a DeKalb County Board of Education meeting Monday, April 18, 2022, in Stone Mountain. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Students of Druid Hills High School show their support of school renovations outside of the DeKalb County School System Administrative and Instructional Complex during a DeKalb County Board of Education meeting Monday, April 18, 2022, in Stone Mountain. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Students of Druid Hills High School show their support of school renovations outside of the DeKalb County School System Administrative and Instructional Complex during a DeKalb County Board of Education meeting Monday, April 18, 2022, in Stone Mountain. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The district is hiring 22 new school resource officers. Work is scheduled to begin in September to modernize Druid Hills High School. The improvements include updates to heating and air conditioning systems, roofing and plumbing. The school board will begin its search for a new superintendent.

Emory University

Georgia’s largest private university is expanding a program this fall to allow more students to graduate debt-free. It has two new deans, M. Daniele Fallin in its school of public health, and Gareth James, in its business school. Emory is applying its artificial intelligence research into more fields of study.

Fulton County Schools

Fulton schools will impose new rules, including restrictions on how students use personal devices such as cellphones. Elementary students cannot use cellphones during school hours. Middle and high school students cannot use their phones during class, unless a teacher gives permission.

Two Fulton County high schools will open new spaces to provide students with access to academic, social and emotional resources and services. A Student and Family Engagement Center will open at both North Springs High School and Tri-Cities High School. Banneker High School already has a center.

Georgia Gwinnett College

A new initiative will pair students with area nonprofits to gain insight, build interest and enhance their options to enter nonprofit careers. The Nonprofit Internship Program will offer juniors and seniors semester-long paid internship opportunities in Gwinnett County and the greater Atlanta area.

Georgia Gwinnett College’s School of Business will unveil a Simulation Lab, which will provide space for students to learn and collaborate as they work toward their degrees. It will also provide financial literacy education to those within the college and broader community.

Georgia Tech

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The Georgia Board of Regents approved Georgia Tech's request to rename its student center after John Lewis, the civil rights activist and congressman, who represented the area that included the campus for more than two decades until his death in 2020. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

Credit: Eric Stirgus

The Georgia Board of Regents approved Georgia Tech's request to rename its student center after John Lewis, the civil rights activist and congressman, who represented the area that included the campus for more than two decades until his death in 2020. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

Credit: Eric Stirgus

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The Georgia Board of Regents approved Georgia Tech's request to rename its student center after John Lewis, the civil rights activist and congressman, who represented the area that included the campus for more than two decades until his death in 2020. (Eric Stirgus/eric.stirgus@ajc.com)

Credit: Eric Stirgus

Credit: Eric Stirgus

Georgia Tech’s renovated student center, named after the late civil rights activist and Atlanta congressman John Lewis, opens Monday. It includes new dining venues, lounge and study areas, and event spaces. To honor the building’s namesake, meeting rooms are named after streets in the 5th Congressional District, which Lewis represented.

Georgia Tech is scheduled in mid August to begin construction of Science Square, a mixed-use innovation community that includes commercial lab space as well as residential real estate and retail opportunities.

Gwinnett County Public Schools

The state’s largest school district is expanding its prekindergarten program into eight elementary schools. Gwinnett’s pre-K program had previously been exclusively for special needs students. The district is implementing a new approach to literacy that leaders believe will shrink achievement gaps and create consistency in curriculum.

Gwinnett is requiring its employees to wear masks in district buildings amid a current rise in COVID-19 cases.

Georgia State University

The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies is offering a new policy analytics concentration in its Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree program. It’s designed to prepare students to work as analysts and managers in the public and nonprofit sectors.

Georgia’s largest university will have new faces in different leadership positions. Michael Galchinsky will become the inaugural Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, Lakeyta Bonnette-Bailey will be the interim co-director of the Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni, Sarah Cook will become permanent dean of the Honors College, and Kavita Pandit, currently Senior Advisor to the Provost, will assume the role of Executive Coach and Senior Advisor to the Provost.

Gwinnett Technical College

The college has a new program developed in coordination with MARTA to prepare students for entry-level positions in rail systems repair and maintenance. It also has a new building to support its computer sciences programs. It will also house all other information technology and CIS (Computer Information Systems) programs including Cybersecurity, Gaming, Networking, CISCO, Cloud Computing, and emerging technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence.

Henry County Schools

The district is moving elementary school start times to 7:35 a.m., which is 10 minutes earlier than the previous year. School will end at 2:15 p.m., 10 minutes earlier than past dismissals.

The school day will begin at 9 a.m. for middle school students, 15 minutes later than last year. The end of the school day moves back five minutes to 4 p.m.

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State has opened its tenth residence hall on its Kennesaw campus for the fall semester. It will add 500-plus beds to the university.

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The Summit is Kennesaw State University's newest residence hall. PHOTO CREDIT: KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY.

Credit: Contributed

The Summit is Kennesaw State University's newest residence hall. PHOTO CREDIT: KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY.

Credit: Contributed

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The Summit is Kennesaw State University's newest residence hall. PHOTO CREDIT: KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The university is launching a Master of Science in Digital Financial Technologies, a Ph.D. in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science in Learning, Design, and Technology.

Marietta City Schools

The school district moved Marietta High School Principal Keith Ball to a central office position. The new principal is Eric Holland, who most recently served as the principal of Rome High School in Rome, Ga.

Morris Brown College

The college has new chairs of its business, general studies and liberal arts, music, and psychology programs. Morris Brown became fully accredited a few months ago, about two decades after it was revoked.

Spelman College

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Dr. Helene Gayle, former CARE USA chief executive officer, is Spelman College's new president. (Photo contributed)

Credit: Contributed

Dr. Helene Gayle, former CARE USA chief executive officer, is Spelman College's new president. (Photo contributed)

Credit: Contributed

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Dr. Helene Gayle, former CARE USA chief executive officer, is Spelman College's new president. (Photo contributed)

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The historically Black college for women has a new leader. Dr. Helene Gayle is its new president. She previously led the Chicago Community Trust, an organization that works to address wealth and equity gaps in that region. Gayle also worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as CARE USA’s CEO for about nine years.

University of Georgia

The University of Georgia will add approximately 200,000 square feet of new space for research and instruction with the completion of the second phase of the I-STEM research complex in late August. The I-STEM buildings are part of a multiyear plan to build, renovate and modernize space devoted to research and innovation in and around the section of campus known as Science Hill.

UGA also has a new School of Computing to boost its computer science offerings and enable stronger partnerships with other academic areas such as engineering.

University of North Georgia

The Cottrell Center for Business, Technology & Innovation opens this fall. It will provide technology-enhanced classrooms and computer labs, dedicated spaces for cybersecurity and logistics, student engagement areas, and gathering spaces for large events.

UNG’s Master of Business Administration will be offered online for new students starting this fall. The university will continue to provide in-person courses for students already in the program who prefer to continue in that modality. It’s also launching a nexus degree in applied gerontology with a concentration in family caregiving. The applied gerontology nexus degree will require 60 hours of coursework.

University of West Georgia

Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, UWG will help people who are incarcerated receive Pell Grants, allowing them to continue their education.