From Patch Staff Report
At its meeting on Thursday, the Fulton County School Board approved petitions for two charter schools – the Latin Grammar School and the Latin College Preparatory School – which expands the district’s high quality educational options for families.
If the petitions are approved by the State Board of Education later this year, which is the next step in the process, Fulton County will become one of Georgia’s "most charter friendly school systems with a total of 10 start-up charter schools in its school choice portfolio," the district said in a news release.
Making the announcement even more groundbreaking is that the schools were selected using a Request For Charter Proposals process, the first of its kind in Georgia. The process, developed by Fulton County Schools, strategically aligns a charter school’s petition with the district’s strategic plan goals of improved graduation rates and increased college and career readiness.
Last May, the school system issued a Request For Charter Proposals which outlined the district’s academic focus areas and asked petitioners to submit their school plans for addressing those needs. Nine competitive proposals were submitted and reviewed.
However, two stood out for their experienced staffs, well-established curricula, and fully developed operational plans: the Latin Grammar School, a kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school, and the Latin College Preparatory School, a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school. Upon approval by the State Board of Education, both will open during the 2015-16 school year and are projected to serve about 360 students each.
“We are confident that the Latin Grammar School and the Latin College Preparatory School will add to our offerings of high quality, rigorous programs in the South Fulton area,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa. “The schools’ unique emphasis on Latin also will give a strong foundation to other curriculum areas and instill an appreciation for learning.”
“We are honored to have the opportunity to bring The Latin Way to Fulton County Schools. Our schools offer a rigorous and engaging academic program embedded within an innovative school design that provides a distinct educational option to students and families,” added Chris Clemons, managing director of the Latin Schools Foundation. “We are committed to repaying the School Board’s vote of confidence with exceptional performance and look forward to working with the Fulton County Schools team."
The schools will have the use of a Fulton County school building – the soon-to-be-vacant Oak Knoll Elementary School in East Point – but will eventually relocate to their own facilities after four years of operation, allowing the school system to incubate another charter in the location. This offering was timely in that during the 2014 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers debated a bill (HB 897) that included provisions for school systems to extend the use of underutilized property to charter schools.
“Oak Knoll’s closing [due to new school construction] gave us a unique opportunity to offer its building to the successful charter petitioners,” said Superintendent Avossa. “Not only does this continue the Oak Knoll’s educational life, but it supports our charter schools’ access to quality school facilities.”
“Parents want the ability to choose schools that best fit their children’s educational needs,” said Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, author of Georgia’s Charter Systems Act and a longtime advocate of school choice options. “With their support of these two schools, Fulton County Schools is showing its commitment to providing more unique, personalized options for students. Education shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all, and I commend the school board for having the courage to approve more schools with diverse approaches to learning and teaching.”
Offering students and parents more flexibility in educational options has long been a hallmark of Fulton County Schools. Currently, seven charter school alternatives already are offered to students – Amana Academy, Main Street Academy, Fulton Sunshine Academy, KIPP South Fulton Academy, Fulton Science Academy High School, Hapeville Charter Middle School and Hapeville Career Academy.
Five magnet programs – International Studies (Riverwood International Charter School), Mathematics and Science (Westlake High School), Visual and Performing Arts (Tri-Cities High School), Visual and Performing Arts (North Springs Charter High School), and Math and Sciences (North Springs Charter High School) – as well as two open enrollment schools (Independence High School and McClarin High School) are offered to provide increased rigor or flexibility.
In August, the district’s eighth charter school (Chattahoochee Hills Charter School) will open in South Fulton and Westlake High School will begin the certification process to add an International Baccalaureate program.