As part of its proposal to shift some of its elementary and middle schools to a K-8 model, Fulton County Schools plans to start with three schools in south Fulton’s Tri-Cities High cluster.
Conley Hills and Hapeville elementary schools each would become K-8 schools. Conley Hills’ existing campus would close, and Paul D. West Middle School, which is less than a mile away, would become the new Conley Hills K-8 site. But some residents have voiced concerns about the transition moving too fast.
In a letter to the public, District 6 Fulton Board of Education member Kimberly Dove, one of two board members who represents the Tri-Cities cluster, addressed the issue.
“Last week I asked this board, along with the superintendent, to take a pause on implementing the K-8 model at Conley Hills,” she wrote, referring to the board’s Feb. 9 work session. “Unfortunately, there has been some misinformation spread about the process, and I want to correct it,” “So no matter where you stand on the issue, you at least have accurate information.
“One, this matter is not a done deal. The school board has taken no action on this proposal, and when we do, it will be in a public meeting, which will be advertised according to Georgia law and our policies.”
Dove read the letter at the board’s Feb. 18 meeting, which was held at the South Learning Center in Union City. At the meeting, she and other officials said they planned to hold off on moving forward on the proposal until the district could have more in-person meetings where residents could provide their opinion on the issue.
Though the district hosted in-person meetings Sept. 8 and Nov. 10, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced it to shift some of them to a virtual format. Fulton hosted online community forums Dec. 7 and Jan. 11 and 25. At the Feb. 18 meeting, six individuals from East Point and College Park, where the Tri-Cities cluster is located, said they want the transformed Conley Hills to be a new building instead of the old West Middle campus.
“I want you to know that I’ve taken this to heart and a value your feedback. I echo the comments by representative Dove,” District 3 board member Gail Dean, who also represents the Tri-Cities cluster, said, thanking the residents for their input.
According to the district’s website, the K-8 model is popular with private and charter schools and “helps young learners by eliminating the move to a separate school for grades 6-8, a transition that can be socially and educationally difficult for some students.”
District Superintendent Mike Looney said putting the plan on hold is the right move.
“I do believe that it’s in our best interest to pause – one, to reevaluate the model and its appropriateness in our community based on some concerns that ayou received; two, to make the case why K-8 is good for kids based on research spanning more than two decades now; and then, third, to give our community more time for input,” he said.
In her letter, Dove also pointed out that redistricting in the Tri-Cities cluster may be needed in the future.
“No matter which education program is selected, it is important for our community to know that we will need to adjust school attendance zones because of declining population,” she wrote. “Conley Hills has seen a drop of approximately 200 students in the past five years. Our demographers tell us that this trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future.”