Fulton Science Academy looks to state to keep doors open

No local options remain after Fulton Schools rejects state mediation

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Officials with the Fulton Science Academy Middle School are working fast and furious to ensure the high-performing middle school will keep its doors open for students come August. The school has now turned to the state for permission to become a state charter school, after exhausting all options for negotiation with the Fulton County School System.

Last month, the Fulton County Board of Education denied FSA’s request to renew its charter for an additional 10-year period because of concerns with the application. Last week, Fulton Schools rejected the state’s offer to mediate a solution; system officials are now working on a transition plan for FSA students if they return to a traditional school next year.

FSA officials, however, are not going away quietly. School officials submitted an application last week to the Georgia Department of Education Charter School Division to become a state charter school and hope to receive word on a decision before the end of the school year.

State officials confirmed that since the application is for the renewal of a charter – and not a completely new charter – a decision could be made in the next three months.

“We expect to have a recommendation for approval or denial to the state Board of Education by May 2012 for action in June 2012,” said Louis Erste, director of the Charter Schools Division for GDOE.

State approval would allow FSA to continue operations, however it would have to financially survive solely on state funding, without a local supplement.

Currently, FSA receives $3.9 million a year from the Fulton County School System, which is a combination of state and local funding. As a state charter, FSA could lose the local supplement of up to $600,000 annually.

Recognizing the financial implications of becoming a state charter school, FSA has developed a financial contingency plan that looks at revenue options and reduction in expenses.

“FSA has received overwhelming financial support from the local community and has fundraised over $255,000 in a period of just over three weeks,” said Kathleen Dion, spokesperson for FSA. “We were able to present [the state] a sound budget with more than $1 million above the state allocation.”

Other options FSA is considering to bridge the gap between expenses and revenue include a local referendum to receive local funding, working with the state legislature to provide local funding to state charter schools, an allocation from the state to provide charter school assistance and the continuation of parent-supported fundraising.

Dion said the school has already received 500 applications for next year, which represents a 31 percent increase from last year. FSA opened in 2002 and currently enrolls 500 students in grades 6-8.


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