Fulton school board talks in-person classes next year, budget effects

There have been countless community events helping young families now that so many of the resources a school provides have been disrupted.

Credit: Christina Matacotta

caption arrowCaption
There have been countless community events helping young families now that so many of the resources a school provides have been disrupted.

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Fulton County Schools leaders on Tuesday discussed what school might look like in August and how they’ll pay for it all.

Fulton Superintendent Mike Looney said at a Tuesday school board work session the most likely scenario is that there will be regular, in-person schooling next school year. But he added that the guidance from health experts changes often.

Looney announced on March 12 classes in school buildings would stop "until further notice." Since then, so much has changed. From instruction going totally online to plans for drive-through graduation parades, all in the name of keeping communities safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said online instruction will continue the rest of the year and teachers won’t be required to come to school buildings.

“We have every intention to re-open as scheduled in August to begin the 2021 school year,” he said. “The real questions is how we start.

READ | Requested budget cut could mean $1.6 billion less for Georgia schools

According to a presentation from district staff, if they open school buildings up, there could be some changes:

• There would be more thorough cleaning, and students would be encouraged to practice better hygiene.

• If federal health authorities weren’t requiring masks be worn in public, the school district would allow students to wear them if they chose.

• Students in grades 3 through 12 will be allowed to take home school-issued devices.

• The district is already building a bank of pre-recorded lessons, and officials are trying to streamline all the platforms and applications parents are having to juggle to get their child instruction.

School board member Linda McCain asked what happens if a student gets the highly contagious virus.

“Closing down every time we have a case would be counter-productive,” she said.

Looney said they were still forming that plan, but he understands that it’d take 72 hours to clean a school and get it open.

READ | Metro Atlanta governments expect $600M in coronavirus aid

And how do you assess where your students are and whether they’re now behind on curriculum after such a large disruption then summer break?

Staff members said they are looking for a way to test students when they come back to find the gaps and fill them.

As for how they will make all this happen, the district’s CFO Marvin Dereef said Tuesday that they have a budget but it will change for many reasons.

He said they are waiting on word from the state about not only grants, but the effects of Gov. Brian Kemp asking for a 14% cut to how much the state would send to school districts.

Dereef said their best estimate right now would be a $56 million cut in state funding. Their current total expected revenue for next school year is $1.45 billion.

The district is expecting $18.3 million from the federal CARES Act, he said.

READ | Fulton leases ambulances for south county, where COVID-19 is most dire

Fulton schools has $108 million fund it started after the last economic recession, which many board members said is the reason there won’t be a need to lay off or furlough staff.

“Some tools you wish you never had to use, but you’re glad you have them,” Dereef said.

He said they are not anticipating needing to touch the millage rate or school meal prices.

“Even though there’s a lot of unknowns with the budget, it looks like we’re going to be OK,” McCain said.

Like North Fulton County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

caption arrowCaption
3,000 daily COVID-19 deaths in US by June 1, government report predicts

About the Author

Editors' Picks