FCS Community Update for November 20, 2020
November 19 Post-Meeting Update
The Fulton County School Board met Thursday, November 19, for its regularly scheduled Board Meeting. Included in this update are several items related to the district’s management of COVID-19, including a information about free testing, the conversion of November 30 and December 1 to remote learning days, and a video reminding families to exercise caution when gathering for the holiday season. The district also is asking parents to complete a commitment survey for second semester and is changing January 5 to a teacher workday due to the run-off election. The full agenda is available online.
Remembering Westlake Principal Jamar Robinson
School Board members began the meeting with a moment of silence in memory of Westlake High School Principal Jamar Robinson and his wife, who both passed away unexpectedly. They also shared memories of Principal Robinson, their admiration of his leadership and love for Westlake, and expressed their condolences to the Robinson family.
Remote Learning Days: November 30 and December 1
Fulton County Schools is converting Monday, November 30, and Tuesday, December 1, to Remote Learning days. All students (Face to Face and Remote Learners) will report to class virtually following instructions from their teachers. Superintendent Mike Looney announced these two remote learning days to provide adequate time for individual testing for COVID-19 and appropriate reporting of results after the Thanksgiving break (see COVID-19 testing information below). All school and district staff will work remotely, except for essential staff, who are defined as those needed to support building operations. Those individuals will be required to report to their work site as well as those needed for the December 1 special election which will utilize nine sites in the district.
Dr. Looney confirmed that the current model of Face-to-Face instruction, with the option for Remote Learning, would continue through the holiday break and during second semester. Similar to the process followed in first semester, parents are being asked through a commitment survey to decide which model they want for their child(ren). Parents must declare their decision by December 11 or their child(ren)’s placement will default to the learning environment they were in as of December 14. The decision will remain in effect for the first nine weeks of second semester so that schools and teachers can allocate resources and plan accordingly.
Parents who are curious about the way teachers work with both Face-to-Face and Remote Learning students are encouraged to watch the following video on simultaneous instruction. The video showcases FCS teachers who demonstrate how the model works and explains the way schools are successfully adapting to students’ needs both in-person and virtually. Two versions have been produced – an abbreviated version and an extended one.
Change to School Calendar
The School Board approved changing January 5, 2021, from a regular school day to a teacher workday/student holiday. Since January 5 is a run-off election date and more than 60 schools are polling sites, the decision was made to convert the day to a student holiday. January 6, 2021, now becomes the first day of second semester for students.
In his COVID-19 update, Superintendent Looney clarified some confusion around the FCS Closing Matrix used to determine whether a school should convert temporarily to remote learning. The matrix continues to be effective in handling school situations locally so that learning is not disrupted for the school system’s entire 90,000+ student population. There is no specific number of positive COVID-19 cases that automatically triggers a school to close; instead, the decision is made only after consulting with community health partners like the Fulton County Board of Health or Georgia Department of Public Health and receiving their recommendation. Most schools are successfully managing situations through quarantining students testing positive as well as quarantining potentially exposed students and by disinfecting the school. The vast majority of students quarantining for possible exposure do not end up reporting a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Free COVID-19 Testing: November 29
Given the rise in recent COVID-19 cases and the likelihood of an increase due to holiday gatherings and travel, CORE has agreed to operate additional testing sites on Sunday, November 29 at two FCS locations: North Learning Center (450 Northridge Parkway, Sandy Springs) and South Learning Center (4025 Flat Shoals Road, Union City). CORE is one of the community organizations providing free COVID-19 testing, but students, employees and their families can seek testing from any health care provider.
CORE has agreed to expedite the reporting process from the two FCS sites and expects those results to be returned within 48 hours, on average. Those not receiving results within that 48-hour timeframe are reminded that they must not come to an FCS workplace or school until results are received. Also, parents whose children undergo testing are reminded to make a report to the school district’s Parent (Student) COVID-19 Reporting Portal. Employees should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (with their phone number) if they have a positive result, are still waiting for their test results, or have had direct contact with someone testing positive.
Individuals are encouraged to seek COVID-19 testing before returning to an FCS workplace or school particularly if (1) they have travelled out of state/country during the Thanksgiving break; (2) participated in any large gatherings; (3) suspect being exposed to COVID-19; and (4) currently have/had flu-like or COVID-like symptoms. Testing can occur through any health provider, but the November 29 test sites have been added as an extra resource.
Staying Healthy During the Holidays
Fulton County Schools is reinforcing public health messages about being careful this holiday season when making decisions to travel and/or gather with others who are not part of their household. This video conversation features three members of the FCS COVID-19 Executive Task Force – Chief Talent Officer Ron Wade; Lynne Meadows, Coordinator of Student Health Services; and Brian Noyes, Chief Communications Officer – as they talk candidly about the challenges and opportunities facing families during the Thanksgiving and winter holiday breaks.
Chief Academic Officer (CAO) Clifford Jones shared additional information on the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, which tracks the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma. He also reported on the district’s Advanced Placement exam performance for the Class of 2020 and shared that the district’s average AP exam score is 3.29 (out of 5). Eight FCS high schools have average scores above 3.0 – Alpharetta, Cambridge, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek, Milton, Northview, Riverwood and Roswell – and seven schools have increased their average score since 2018: Banneker, Creekside, Hapeville Career Charter, Langston Hughes, North Springs and Tri-Cities. Principals of two Fulton schools with the highest AP exam performance gave their insights – Jason Stamper from Banneker High School and Michael Todd from Chattahoochee High School. Banneker has experienced a 37% gain in students enrolled in AP courses since 2018 and Chattahoochee has the highest average AP score in the district – 3.83 out of 5.
K-8 Model for Conley Hills ES and Hapeville ES
The School Board authorized Dr. Looney and the district to proceed with holding three online community forums to present more information on the proposed K-8 model and to collect community input. The proposed plan calls for Conley Hills Elementary School and Hapeville Elementary School, both in the Tri-Cities High School cluster, to become kindergarten through eighth grade schools. The online community forums – set for December 7, January 11 and January 25 – will be hosted 6-8 p.m. using Microsoft Teams. The meetings also will gather information for drawing potential attendance boundaries to fill the Conley Hills and Hapeville campuses and balance the enrollments of surrounding schools, should the K-8 model be adopted by the School Board later this year. More information is posted here.
Increase in Substitute Pay
Like other school systems nationally, Fulton County Schools has had a growing need of substitute personnel due to the pandemic and other labor shortages. To recruit additional substitutes, the district has established an incentive plan that raises the daily pay rate while also expanding the number of days, from 17 to 20, that a substitute can work each month. The daily pay rate for paraprofessional/clinic/clerical substitutes is increasing from $80 to $100; teacher substitute pay is increasing from $100 to $175; and the daily rate for those in long-term substitute assignments is increasing from $120 to $200. The incentive plan aims to counter the shortage caused by the pandemic and will expire May 31, 2020 (the end of the school year) unless continued by the School Board.
FCS is preparing to host a Reading/Language Arts textbook adoption for grades kindergarten through second grade. Due to gathering restrictions caused by the pandemic, there will be no school sites displaying the materials, but they will be made available virtually. Three FCS administrative locations, however, will house materials for in-person, socially-distanced review beginning November 30 through January 22. The School Board will take the community’s input into consideration before deciding whether to adopt the materials in March 2021 so they can be in place for the 2021-2022 school year.
Students produce Text4Help video
Student Government Association presidents from high schools across the school system have come together to produce a public service announcement for struggling teens. The student leaders lent their faces and voices to a video promoting “Text4Help,” a resource for Fulton County students needing a listening ear, selfcare tips for stress and anxiety, or even resources for major crises. Text4Help works by students first texting a number (844-201-9466) and then typing in their unique middle or high school code. Within 3-5 minutes, a licensed clinician from a vetted mental health partner will respond and engage in conversation. Using Text4Help is anonymous, safe and free, and given these challenging times, students need mental wellness resources more than ever.
State Board of Education withdraws 10% EOC proposal
After receiving community input, the State Board of Education has withdrawn its recommendation of a 10% course grade weight for Georgia Milestones End-of-Course (EOC) exams in 2020-2021. Instead, it will uphold State Superintendent Richard Woods’ original recommendation of a .01% weight, which was proposed after Georgia’s request to waive standardized testing requirements was denied by the U.S. Department of Education.