More than 90,000 Fulton County students return to class on Aug. 13, and some will find themselves in a different place — a charter school.

Fulton becomes the state’s largest charter district this year, school officials said during an Aug. 7 press conference at Riverwood International Charter High School.

“We truly believe this charter process will allow us to be more innovative,” Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa said. “Public schools for too long have been ‘one size fits all.’”

Charter schools are freed from some regulations governing schools in return for greater accountability. Fulton schools say their new system will offer schools greater freedom and flexibility to try to improve student performance.

Back to school

Sandy Springs school officials choose a variety of days to start classes. Here’s when students return to local schools to start classes this year.

Fulton County public schools— Monday, Aug. 13

Brandon Hall— Monday, Aug. 20

Davis Academy— Monday, Aug. 13

The Epstein School—Monday, Aug. 13

Greenfield Hebrew Academy—Monday, Aug. 13

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School— Tuesday, Aug. 14 (Middle and Upper Schools); Wednesday, Aug. 15 (Primary and Lower Schools)

Holy Spirit Preparatory School—Monday, Aug. 20

Mount Vernon Presbyterian School—Wednesday, Aug. 15

The Weber School—Monday, Aug. 13

Sources: various schools

The move to a charter district should not require too many changes for schools such as Riverwood, already a charter school, officials said.

“Because we’re already a charter school, we’ll see very little change,” Riverwood Principal Chris Triolo said. “I don’t think our parents will see a change and I don’t think our students will see a change. Our staff will see some.”

A group of 20 of Fulton’s about 100 schools will be the first to address the changes needed to become charter schools, school officials said. All of the system’s schools will follow within the next four years, Avossa said.

He called the first 20 schools “a really good representation of the district.” He said parents and staff at the schools volunteered to go first. The group includes Heards Ferry Elementary, Spalding Drive Charter Elementary, Woodland Elementary and Riverwood.

Riverwood joined the group because its charter was due for renewal soon anyway, school officials said.

“The first year, it’s a lot of training – training for the community and training for parents. Their level of involvement will increase,” Avossa said. “You’ll see a lot of changes at the schoolhouse.”

One change is that two new high schools – Banneker High in College Park and Cambridge High in Milton—will open this fall. Other changes:

— Lake Forest Elementary has a new principal, Harvey Oaxaca, a former assistant principal at Ridgeview Charter School;

–The district now offers text alerts on cellphones for inclement weather, school closings or safety situations. To sign up, send the message “yes” to number 88544;

–School lunches will cost a dime more.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.