Crabapple Middle School

Credit: Fulton County Schools

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) — Despite cases of COVID-19 surging in schools across metro-Atlanta, the Fulton County School District is planning to announce a new "mask-optional hub" for up to 500 students.

The announcement is expected at Thursday's Board of Education meeting. Currently, Fulton County Schools require masks for students and staff at all schools in the district. 

According to a presentation from Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney, the mask-optional hub will be for students from kindergarten through 8th grade and will be located at the Crabapple Center in Roswell.

The presentation says the new learning hub is contingent on getting enough interest from parents who want to enroll their children, as well as the district's ability to recruit staff and other established classroom teaching positions as needed. 

The district says the Crabapple Center, which used to house Crabapple Middle School, is operational and preparations started earlier this week.

The program is limited to 500 students and is scheduled to being operations on Tuesday, Sept. 7. The program, for now, is scheduled to end at the end of the first semester.

From Aug. 2 through Aug. 5, the district reported 91 active cases of COVID-19, a number that is expected to rise when new data is reported by the district later this week. Meanwhile, Wednesday, the Fulton County Board of Health reported significant increases in COVID-19 cases across the county.

However, parents from across the area have protested the district's mask mandate, arguing they should have the right to choose to send their kid to school with a mask or without. Several districts across metro Atlanta continue to make masks optional, while other have made it mandatory.

The district also announced a new remote learning program for kindergarten through 2nd grade students. The program will be open to 300 students which will be decided through a lottery system.

That program also opens on Sept. 7 and will be fully-virtual for the entirety of the first semester.

Fulton County School District released the following statement: 

"Fulton County Schools is dedicated to maintaining a healthy learning environment for its students and staff, prioritizing face-to-face instruction, while offering optional instruction methods when feasible.  On August 12, 2021, the district began to explore the viability of a K-8 Learning Hub for students who cannot take part in COVID mitigation strategies. Parents participated in a survey to express interest in this learning option. Due to low interest in grades 6-8, the middle school option was deemed unfeasible. Interested K-5 parents were invited to attend a virtual townhall on August 25, where Dr. Looney and Mr. Jones explained the model and asked for a commitment by August 27. To date, less than ten families committed to the Learning Hub, a number too low to warrant a viable program option. Therefore, FCS will not move forward with this learning option."

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