Number of Students Increase in Fulton Schools

Fulton schools opened a little more full than they were a year ago.

There were 3,667 students in classrooms throughout the district on opening day this year.  That’s up 68 from last year, according to Executive Director of Instruction and Assessment Betsy Conners.

The district’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program is nearly full at 144 students and Conners said the district could add another class if demand continues.  She urged people to contact the district if they want to place a child in the Pre-K program this year.

She noted that there are 76 students in the alternative education program run at the district office for students who cannot be in a traditional school. Five students are opening the year on medical leave and 23 students have been added to the list of students who meet the definition of homeless.  There are already 147 students on that list.

The extra students, and the cuts caused by another lean budget, are putting stress on the school system, said Board of Education President Robbin Griffin.

She noted that more students are being bused to elementary schools because the school in their home area is full.  Griffin said, for example, the 3rd grade at Volney Elementary is completely full.  Any new 3rd graders will have to be shipped by bus from Volney to an elementary school with room.

Conners said that the expanded transfer bus system experienced a few “glitches” as school opened but the glitches were being worked out.

“There were some concerns (from parents) that their students were getting home late,” said Conners. “But we won’t let buses leave (a school) until all transfer buses have arrived.”

The transfer situation, like nearly every other aspect of school operations, is not likely to improve in the next school year because of the deterioration in support for schools at the state level.

Schools will face another year of large increases in mandatory payments to the state retirement funds as those funds recoup the losses caused by the recession.  No one expects state aid to education to increase next year, and the 2% property tax cap adds pressure to cut programs and staff.

Griffin said the entire situation is causing her to believe that the district should look at ways to restructure — considering everything from changing boundaries for elementary schools to making different use of buildings.

The board asked district officials to begin gathering information on ideas to restructure.