Fulton County Schools drops plan for mask-optional campus

People opposed to Fulton County Schools' mask mandate protest outside a board meeting on Aug. 13, 2021. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Vanessa McCray

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People opposed to Fulton County Schools' mask mandate protest outside a board meeting on Aug. 13, 2021. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Fulton County Schools is abandoning a plan to open a mask-optional campus after the idea drew little interest from families.

Officials proposed the kindergarten through eighth grade “learning hub” in mid-August in response to demands from some parents to lift the district’s mask mandate. Masks are currently required in all of the district’s more than 100 schools.

But this week, Fulton announced it would not proceed with opening the campus, which had been slated for a vacant middle school building in Roswell.

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The district said that interest from families with students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades was too low to be feasible.

They said parents of students in kindergarten through fifth grade were invited to a virtual meeting where officials described the proposal. Those families were asked to commit to the campus concept by Aug. 27.

“To date, less than 10 families committed to the learning hub, a number too low to warrant a viable program option. Therefore, FCS will not move forward with this learning option,” the district’s statement said.

Fulton enrolls more than 90,000 students.

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There were early indications that the idea may not prove popular.

At an Aug. 19 board meeting, with just one more day left before the initial sign-up period closed, Superintendent Mike Looney said that well under 100 students had committed to the program. Some families who initially expressed interest eventually pulled out, said spokesman Brian Noyes.

Planning for the mask-optional campus occurred as the delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate drove up COVID-19 cases. Georgia’s hospital beds are full and younger patients are seeking treatment, according to reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The number of COVID-19 cases among Fulton staff and students has grown each week since school started on Aug. 9. For the week of Aug. 20-26, the district reported 892 cases.

The proposed hub was intended to be a temporary campus for this school year only. Officials said they would staff it with teachers who volunteered to work there. The district did not plan to bus students to the campus, so parents would need to provide transportation.

The district’s statement said officials considered the plan because they wanted to offer another option for families if possible.

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