What’s new in school cafeterias this year? No fried food and more fresh fruit.

In Fulton County, change is coming to middle and high school lunchrooms.

Patrick Burke, deputy superintendent of operations for Fulton County schools, says all the fryers in middle and high schools were replaced over the summer with “retherm ovens” that “gives you that crispy texture without the guilt that you get.”

Fryers were removed from elementary schools in 2008, he said.

Burke spoke as part of a back-to-school briefing that also included Superintendent Robert Avossa, Chief Information Officer Serena Sacks and Chief Talent Officer Ron Wade.

Other cafeteria changes include a switchover to include more whole grains, fruit with breakfast, a food-court concept in which students can choose from all items on all lines, and a 5-cent increase in the price of lunch.

Cafeteria food wasn’t the only thing the panel talked about.

“This past year the board adopted a budget that includes a 3 percent, one-time bonus, that will be going to our employees in December,” Avossa said. “[This year] Fulton County Schools has no furlough days. We have no layoffs. We made some tough decisions early, and we find ourselves seeing a little sunshine over the horizon.”

He added that the school system also restored an additional day to this school year.

Wade said that for this school year the system has hired 17 new principals and 28 assistant principals, many coming from promotions, which he said “speaks highly” of the system’s “ability to build a pipeline.”

Sacks said improvements in technology are being made at the schools, including the replacement of all hardware for networking, doubling the bandwidth at every school in the Fulton system.

Burke said that SPLOST, the 1-cent sales tax approved by voters that goes toward school improvements, has meant a busy summer for school renovations and construction.

Building projects at Sandy Springs schools include a replacement for Heards Ferry Elementary, which is on schedule to be ready in 2015. Spalding Drive Elementary is undergoing renovations to the main entrance to enhance security, kitchen remodeling, and major HVAC and systems improvements.

North Springs Charter High School receives renovations to the main entrance to improve security, roofing, flooring, HVAC and lighting enhancements, and softball field improvements.

Playground enhancements and a new cafeteria are on tap at Woodland Elementary, which will also undergo roofing, HVAC and lighting improvements.

“The 1-cent sales tax is improving your learning environment,” Burke said, with $215 million committed to local firms, and $86 million spent so far.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.