The Fulton County government will be spending $437,000 to support initiatives in county schools.
The funding will support Holcomb Bridge Middle School, Woodland Elementary School, Woodland Middle School and Webb Bridge Middle School. The county department of aging and youth services estimates the funds will impact about 1,500 students.
Some of the projects the schools hope to use the money for include robotics instructors, hydroponic gardening curricula and broadcast instruction including a portable green screen. The schools will be required to measure the impact of the programs and report to the county regularly.
In documents submitted to the county, the schools said their goals include improving math performance, reducing absenteeism and suspensions and increasing the graduation rate.
“These goals are consistent not only with the recommendations of professional staff, but on the basis of what we’ve heard from parents and grandparents… This is what we’ve heard from them,” said Commissioner Emma Darnell, who voted in support of the measure at the board of commissioners’ May 18 meeting.
“I’m looking forward, in a reasonable time, to see a real impact on the children and the parents that all of us represent together,” she said.
She added that she hopes more south Fulton schools will be included in the future.
The other commissioners also supported the plan, with the exception of Commissioner Marvin Arrington, who said the schools should share a portion of the cost.
“They have their own billion dollar budget,” he said. “And they have their right and their responsibility to educate children. And that’s not ours. That’s not our right and our responsibility. Certainly we can help them. Certainly we can enter into an agreement to help them, but we shouldn’t bear the sole responsibility of financing it.
Arrington called the program a “patchwork job” and called for a comprehensive plan that would also involve Atlanta Public Schools.
Chairman John Eaves said he has reached out to APS, but talks never progressed past the initial stage. He said he believes once they see the success of the schools currently part of the plan, they will be eager to join.
“Of course Atlanta’s going to call you now that they’ve seen you give half a million dollars to Fulton County Schools,” Arrington said. “You bet your bottom dollar they’re going to call you and say ‘Where’s our $500,000?’”
The other commissioners were not persuaded.
“We had this discussion,” said Bob Ellis. “We’ve talked about who would be best positioned to deliver services and have an impact and how we could best utilize the taxpayers’ money… Some folks may not agree with it, but there was a plan and there was a process, and that’s what we’ve approved today.