FCS Community Update for January 13, 2021
January 12 Post-Meeting Update
The Fulton County School Board met Tuesday, January 12, for its monthly work session at the North Learning Center. Following are highlights of some of the more highly-discussed topics, with the full agenda available online. Information about the application process for the new Fulton Full-Time Online school is also included after the update.
Election of New School Board Officers
Held yesterday at the FCS North Learning Center, the first School Board work session of 2021 resulted in newly elected officers. District 7 Representative Julia Bernath was elected to a two-year term as President, while District 6 Representative Kimberly Dove was elected Vice President for a one-year term. President Bernath’s new term continues the leadership she held when retiring member Linda Bryant turned over the second year of her presidential term so there would be leadership continuity. In addition, Franchesca Warren officially joined the School Board for her first meeting as District 4 Representative, filling the seat left by Ms. Bryant.
Superintendent Mike Looney presented his twice-monthly COVID-19 update to the School Board. He shared that a return to in-person instruction was delayed until after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday due to new information received from the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH), including vaccination efforts being made for individuals in Phase 1A+ of the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) Vaccine Rollout Plan. Phase 1A+ includes all FCS health service workers, school police officers, and FCS employees over 65 years in age. This Saturday, the Fulton County Board of Health is holding a special event at Mercedes Benz Stadium to voluntarily vaccinate FCS employees within Phase 1A+, and FCS is communicating details directly with those FCS staff members who qualify. Dr. Looney will continue to advocate for all FCS employees to receive access to the vaccine as soon as it is made available in the rollout plan. View the full update here.
Revised Quarantine Guidance
In addition, Fulton County Schools is following the Centers for Disease Control’s revised guidance on quarantine periods. Previously, the CDC recommended a quarantine period of 14 days, but in December the guidance was shortened to 10 days. As a result, Fulton County Schools will assign a standard quarantine period of 10 days to students and employees who report COVID-19 exposure. However, individuals quarantining due to exposure (i.e., not those who have tested positive) can reduce the quarantine period to a minimum of 7 days if they (1) provide proper documentation of a negative test, AND (2) have not experienced any COVID-19 symptoms while in quarantine. The COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) must have been taken on Day 5 or later, with the test results dated at that time. This graphic from the Georgia Department of Public Health, as well as this FCS chart, explains the new quarantine guidance and the process to follow. FCS’ Health Services Team will continue to consult with public health on guidance issued for students and staff.
Universal Remote Leave (URL) Update
Fulton County Schools is reinstating Universal Remote Leave (URL) to ensure minimum disruption to student instruction and department/school operations when an employee has been directed to quarantine due to a COVID-19 related reason (COVID-19 positive, a work-related direct contact, or pending test result) and to provide employees an Emergency Paid Leave (EPL) option as a safety net that can be used only after an employee has exhausted all of his/her URL and sick/personal/vacation leave options. This temporary leave option will be effective January 4, 2021 (retroactively) to April 2, 2021 and was reinstated due to the expiration of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
Student, Teacher and Parent/Guardian Bill of Rights
Last Spring, Superintendent Looney launched workgroups with his Student, Teacher and Parent advisory councils to begin drafting a “Bill of Rights”. Corresponding with national events showcasing displays of inequity and injustice among socio-economic groups the effort helped shape the drafts presented to the Board for their review on Tuesday. Students, teachers, and parents across the district came together with Dr. Looney in monthly meetings since August to create the language of each “Bill of Rights”. The principles set a framework intended to support an environment of reciprocal accountability and outline tenets for the unique needs of these groups. Action on the documents will be taken after they have been shared more broadly for reaction and review.
Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) Process Under Review
The School Board is reviewing the reinstatement of its support for Tax Allocation Districts (TADs), a financing tool used by governments to support redevelopment efforts in specified areas. In June 2020, the School Board suspended its TAD review and application process due to the uncertain economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact on the district’s tax collections, local economy and redevelopment activities was, and remains unclear, but the School Board will consider resuming the process and the TAD applications that have been recently submitted or tabled since it halted review in June.
SPLOST funds used to pay off last general obligation bond for Fulton County Schools
At yesterday’s work session, the School Board celebrated a major milestone in the district’s financial history – paying off its final outstanding general obligation bond backed by the FCS property tax digest. The $32 million 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. Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef presented each School Board member with a framed copy of the “Paid in Full” notice, each adorned with shiny pennies, to commemorate the pay-off. Read more here.
Important Reminders and Updates
Fulton Full-Time Online School Application Opens January 25
Beginning January 25, parents and students interested in a full-time online school option for School Year 2021-22 and beyond may submit an application via the FCS website. During the December Board Work Session, Dr. Gyimah Whitaker, Deputy Chief Academic Officer presented information about the school, including the origination of the concept and need. Now, more details are available for potential students to review via the Full-Time Online Schools’ information page, including a timeline and key milestones, proposed course offerings, examples of a “Day-in-the-Life” for students grades 3 through high school, and how to apply. The application portal will be open 12 a.m. EST on Jan. 25, close at midnight, Feb. 5. and can be found here.