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FCS Community Update for January 22, 2021


January 21 Post-Meeting Update

The Fulton County School Board met Thursday, January 21, for its monthly action board meeting at the South Learning Center. Following are highlights of some of the more highly-discussed topics, with the full agenda available online. Additional information and reminders can be found after the board meeting update, such as the application window for the district's first fully virtual school (Fulton Full-Time Online School), adoption of the new school year calendars, and information about FCS paying off long-term debt using SPLOST funds.


COVID-19 Update
Chief Talent Officer Ron Wade presented an update on the district’s COVID-19 management efforts. He shared that, effective immediately, Fulton County Schools is reverting back to a standard 10-day quarantine for individuals who report a COVID-19 exposure. New information suggests that a reduced quarantine of 7 days may not be long enough to detect an infection that shows up later in the quarantine period. Going back to a 10-day quarantine keeps the student or staff member at home longer, therefore reducing possible exposure to others. This graphic provides more detailed information.

He also shared the success of the January 16 “Super Saturday” vaccination event at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Nearly 700 Fulton County Schools and Atlanta Public Schools employees who were eligible in Phase 1A+ of the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) Vaccine Rollout Planwere invited to voluntarily receive their first vaccine dose. On February 6, they can return to Mercedes Benz Stadium for their second dose through “Super Saturday – Part II.” The event also will provide first doses to eligible employees who missed the January 16 opportunity. FCS is communicating details directly with those FCS staff members who qualify. No vaccination timeline has been given yet about the GDPH Phase 1B, which includes those working in education, but Superintendent Mike Looney and other district leaders continue to advocate for all FCS employees to receive access to the vaccine as soon as it is made available in the rollout plan. The entire report can be found here.


Turnaround Schools Report
Chief Academic Officer Clifford Jones and Zone 1 Superintendent Dr. Charisse Campbell gave a presentation on the district’s effort to improve Turnaround Eligible schools. FCS has eight traditional schools categorized as “Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI),” Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI),” or “Promise” by the state due to scores on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). On March 27, 2020, the United States Department of Education approved the state’s waiver to temporary halt state assessments and accountability requirements. In the absence of state milestone results, FCS is using iReady assessments to evaluate achievement levels. Using recent data, six of the eight schools show a decline in math achievement, but one is experiencing an increase in literacy. The math declines are consistent with the nationwide trend of a decrease in math achievement during the pandemic. School leaders are refining their semester action plans and continue to work to improve student engagement and monitor progress.


Revised Attendance Policy
Policy JBD (Absences and Excuses) was updated to include parent absence notification thresholds and to add an opportunity to use participation in remote learning as a substitute for an absence. It also added to the list of what is considered an excused absence and removed driver’s license revocation as a deterrent in alignment with updated state laws.Last month the School Board adopted Policy JB (Attendance) to take a proactive stance about student attendance and provide a tiered framework for identifying supports to improve student attendance.


Impact of Governor’s Proposed Budget
Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef provided an update regarding Governor Brian Kemp’s budgetary recommendations and highlighted some of the major changes to the FY21 and FY22 budgets potentially impacting Fulton County Schools. While the Governor’s Budget clearly sets out his goals, the State budget is not finalized and is pending review, amendments and approval by the Georgia General Assembly. Therefore, the information provided is subject to change.

In his “State of the State address,” Governor Kemp proposed a $647.1 million increase to the state budget, including a $1,000, one-time supplemental pay bonus for all school-based K-12 personnel. Governor Kemp’s proposal also would restore 60% of the austerity cuts imposed this year. That would restore approximately $23 million of the $40 million Fulton Schools earned but did not get allocated, thereby reducing lost funding.

Other notable highlights for FY22 in the Governor’s proposed budget include: a) The Teacher Retirement System employer contribution rate is increasing from 19.06 percent to 19.81; however, there will be more Teacher Retirement System expenditures needed from FCS’s budget; b) Student enrollment during the pandemic is down statewide, and the decline in enrollment reduces the funds earned by FCS through the State’s QBE formula; c) In spite of the pandemic, Fulton County property values have been doing well, which means the Local Fair Share that Fulton County Schools must pay to the state continues to rise. Unfortunately, the enrollment and local fair share factors have a negative impact on our budget. On a more positive note, however, the Governor’s FY22 budget implies a continuation of the Charter System Grant, and that means FCS will continue to receive $4.2 million. Additionally, Fulton County Schools will be directly allocated an estimated $75 million in Cares Act 2 stimulus funds from the federal government over the next two years. 

SPLOST Funded Improvements 
The School Board approved the fourth round of schools to receive replacement security camera systems. The effort has been ongoing for several years, with the project divided into five waves of installation so that every FCS school will have their analog system upgraded to digital. Funded by SPLOST, 15 schools will receive new Avigilon security surveillance systems that allow safety and security teams to remotely monitor activities via desktop computers, monitoring stations and mobile devices. Wave 4 work is scheduled to begin in February and to be completed next year. 

The School Board also approved renovation work to begin for the media centers at six middle schools – Autrey Mill, Renaissance, Ridgeview, River Trail, Sandtown and Taylor Road. These schools will join other FCS middle and high schools that have had their media center spaces renovated to incorporate the latest in technology and innovative learning. This summer, the media centers will be gutted and reconfigured with new layouts, reading room and study room areas, new cabinetry and shelving as well as other technology modifications that make the space more relevant for today’s learners. 

Important Reminders and Updates 

Fulton Full-Time Online School  
The application window is opening soon for students interested in attending Fulton’s Full-Time Online School. This application portal will go live at 12 a.m. on January 25, and will close at midnight, February 5. The new virtual school launches in August 2021 and will enroll students in grades 3-11 for its first year. Those interested in a virtual school option can learn more by checking out this December 2020 presentation given by FCS Deputy Chief Academic Officer Dr. Gyimah Whitaker. More details also are available via the Full-Time Online School’s information page, including a timeline and key milestones, proposed course offerings, examples of a “Day-in-the-Life” for students, and how to apply. The school’s official name, as well as its principal, will be named in the coming months. 

New School Year Calendars 
In case you missed it, last month the School Board adopted calendars for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. Monday, August 9, will be the first day of school for 2021-22, with the last day being May 26, the Thursday before Memorial Day. Similarly, the first day of school for 2022-23 will be August 8 and the last day is May 25. Both calendars have dedicated time off for students and staff, including a week for Thanksgiving Break, two weeks for Winter Break, and one week for Spring Break. The approved calendars can be viewed here: 2021-2022 and 2022-2023

Long-term Debt Paid Off 
The School Board has made FCS financial history by paying off its final outstanding general obligation bond backed by the FCS property tax digest. The bond was secured in 1998 but was paid off on January 1, 2021, thanks to SPLOST [Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax] funding. Each five-year SPLOST has earmarked funds to pay off long-term debt so that Fulton County property owners do not face an additional burden through their school taxes. Using SPLOST as a capital revenue source has kept property taxes low so the School Board can deliver on its commitment to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Read more here