The doors to 106 school buildings across the Fulton County School System open this week for the nearly 93,500 students expected to enroll for the 2019-20 school year. The district still stands as the fourth largest in the state, behind only Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb county school systems.
The school year opens under the direction of newly hired Superintendent Mike Looney, who began work in June, along with more than 600 new teachers hired over the summer to fill open positions.
District officials say they are set to begin the year at nearly full employment, with some vacancies yet to be filled in the traditionally hard to fill areas of math, science and special education. The district’s total teaching force is approximately 7,000 educators.
In all, 14 of the district’s 106 schools will open with new principals, including five in North Fulton.
Over the summer, district staff were busy coordinating new construction and renovation projects, upgrading technology and making school campuses safer.
Holcomb Bridge, Hopewell, Northwestern and Webb Bridge are among the seven middle schools opening with renovated media centers that align with how students prefer to use what was once called a “library.” Over the summer, the media centers were gutted and reconfigured to provide expanded areas for students to work, study and interact.
Taking a page from the Apple playbook, the media centers have a “genius bar-like” space where students can go for help with their technology devices or to find other resources.
“Books still fill the library shelves,” said FCS spokeswoman Samantha Maxey, “But the racks themselves have become smaller since large collections — like encyclopedia sets — are quickly outdated.”
The centers contain more collaborative spaces with moveable furniture to encourage teamwork, along with small break-out rooms for independent study.
Other renovation projects at area schools include playground upgrades at Cogburn Woods, Shakerag and Wilson Creek elementary schools, turf replacement at Johns Creek High School and track replacement at Milton High.
FCS rolled out Infinite Campus over the summer, allowing parents online access to school announcements and their child’s grades, assignments, schedule and attendance. Parents can get real-time information of what is happening in their child’s classroom through the website or mobile app. Register for access at https://campus.fultonschools.org.
Parents can take the guesswork out of when to head to the bus stop by downloading the “Here Comes the Bus” app which tracks buses using GPS technology. Similar to ride-sharing apps, the bus shows up as an icon on a map, and users can follow its progress as it moves toward the bus stop. Download the program at www.herecomesthebus.com or through Apple or Google app stores.
An additional more low-tech way to track elementary bus riders will be used this year. Every child will be given a tag for their bookbag which contains their bus ID as well as an animal/color, so the student can easily match it with the corresponding sign on the outside of their bus.
All Fulton County schools will undergo a comprehensive safety and security assessment this year funded by the $30,000 per school grant provided by Gov. Brian Kemp.
“The results will make emergency processes even more [effective],” said Maxey, who noted the results will not be shared publicly to protect details of the safety plans.
The remainder of the grant will be used to implement the improvements identified by the assessments.
Modern security cameras continue to be installed in all Fulton school buildings allowing facial recognition and other appearance searches via desktops, monitoring stations and mobile devices. All schools will have these systems in place in the next two years.
The FCS Emergency Operations Center is now monitored around the clock to better respond to active threats or concerns and to provide an extra level of support and officer safety.
“Personnel can easily view security cameras at each school and other district facilities, [then] information is relayed directly to any school police officers who are on duty,” Maxey said.