The Fulton County Schools district will keep all of its schools closed through March 31 as recommended by Gov. Brian Kemp, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). But it’s likely they’ll remain shuttered through April 3, the Friday before spring break begins, Superintendent Mike Looney said.

“If that becomes necessary, we’ll continue to use the remote learning process we started yesterday and use it all the way through spring break,” Looney said, meaning schools would not reopen until April 13. “We have no intention of cancelling spring break. Frankly everyone will need time then to deal with the stress of this issue now.

“After spring break, our hope is that we can resume traditional school settings. If not, we’ll continue with remote learning process we’re doing now. We simply don’t know how much this virus is going to disrupt how school districts and our community function moving forward.

Looney gave an update on the district’s plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic at the Fulton Board of Education’s special called meeting March 17 at the district’s administrative office in Sandy Springs. All seven board members participated in the meeting remotely from their homes or other locations as part of the board’s remote participation plan.

Looney’s decision came five days after the board held an emergency called meeting to announce he was closing the district’s schools from March 16 through 27 after Kemp recommended it.

As with the emergency meeting, the board voted 7-0 to approve the meeting agenda so the issue could be brought before it by Looney, but no vote was required to close the schools. Since March 16 the district’s students have taken classes online.

Looney also announced he’s authorized the district to spend about $1.5 million to purchase 3,000 more laptops, averaging $500 each, for students in grades 3 through 12 who don’t have a computer to be equipped with one for remote learning. He said he discussed it with District 7 board member Julia Bernath, the board’s president, and the district’s legal team before moving forward with the plan.

“It’s within the (E)SPLOST framework we have,” he said of the education special-purpose local-option sales tax. “It’s actually a line item in the budget. We haven’t spent all of that line item left. As (district CFO Marvin) Dereef can share with you, this would still keep us under budget.”

Looney and other district leaders provided updates on other aspects of Fulton’s plan to deal with the coronavirus, including its student meal distribution plan, in which students can receive up to four meals on March 16, 18 and 20 at six sites throughout the county.

Chief Operating Officer Patrick Burke said a total of 16,200 meals (4,050 meal packets) were distributed March 16, with 509 at Haynes Bridge Middle, 657 at Mimosa Elementary, 946 at Lake Forest Elementary, 476 at Langston Hughes High, 472 at Banneker High and 990 at Tri-Cities High.

District 4 board member Linda Bryant said because Westlake High is far from the nearest meal distribution site, she hopes the district will add another one on or near its campus.

“We’re looking at it and are evolving a plan,” Looney said in response.

District 1 board member Katha Stewart asked him about State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods’ March 16 announcement saying he was suspending “until further notice” state assessment tests including Georgia Milestones, EOGs (end of grade) and EOCs (end of course), plus the ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement exams.

“My suspicion is there will be some hold on this,” Looney said.

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