North Springs Charter High School parents and students are already off to a tumultuous school year after the Fulton County school board decided to oust out-of-district, tuition-paying students, and then reversed its decision.
Fourteen families affected by the decision, some of whom are Jewish, were notified over the Fourth of July holiday that their children would not be allowed to return to North Springs. According to Georgia law, the charter contract limits attendance zones to “district residents and does not contemplate out-of-district tuition students,” Fulton County School Board Spokesperson Susan Hale said in a statement.
A few weeks after the initial decision, on July 16, the district decided to allow the out-of-district, tuition-paying students to remain if they were enrolled on or before the 2017-18 school year, their home district approved of it, and their tuition payments were up-to-date.
The news was first brought to AJT’s attention after Jewish Fulton county resident and parent Devi Knapp posted on her Facebook page that she is withdrawing her daughter from a school she never attended. “I think to do this to a small number of kids is ridiculous. You are not putting the kids first. I know you are trying to put the Fulton county kids first, but when you took my kid in, you told me you were going to take care of her,” Knapp said.
Not wanting to take any chances, Knapp has now enrolled her daughter in Dunwoody High School and says that unlike the other parents, she never received notification from the county about their decision. “The communication has been so poor, and I don’t trust the county, so I decided to work with my husband and my daughter and not to fight them. I don’t trust that it will work for four years and I’d rather start her at a different school rather than find out two years from now we have to transfer her,” Knapp said.
Never receiving an explanation, Knapp said she assumed the school had a quota for the percentage of kids it could accept. Hale responded in an email that NSCHS does not have a quota for the number of students it accepts, but Knapp believes overcrowding may have been a factor.
“I don’t think they have ever followed their own policy. I have a feeling that someone came through and all of a sudden realized the overcrowding and went back and actually read their charter and said, ‘Oh wait, we have not been compliant to this and this would help us minimize the population a little bit and get it to a more manageable number.’”
Attorney Kelly Himes Brolly of the Hilbert Law Firm represents seven of the students who were affected by the county’s initial decision. She hasn’t filed a lawsuit against the Fulton County school system, but provided documents that support her clients’ decisions as well as legal analysis.
“Although the case involved a great deal of legal work, both in the area of education law and contract law, the firm is very pleased that we were able to get this result for the students/parents involved without litigation,” Brolly said. “Plus, we were able to accomplish it within two weeks, which leaves a few weeks for the families to enjoy before school starts on August 6. We were also glad that we were able to work amicably with the FCSS and their legal counsel to reach a mutually beneficial result.”
Knapp said she realizes that the county is in a difficult place, but it should issue an apology to the families. “They should not only issue it, but make sure it gets to them, because the fact that we had no communication about any of this and that we somehow didn’t get the letter, shows that one hand doesn’t know what the other hands is doing. They need to put plans in place to ensure that this does not happen to any other kid.”
Brolly said the group of students and parents she represents are really exemplary and have remained strong and composed throughout the process. “It has been very difficult for them to learn the news just a few weeks before school has started and to think that they are not permitted to go back to their high school. That’s a hard thing for families.”