Fulton County Schools has backed off from part of its abrupt end to out-of-district enrollments at North Springs Charter High School, saying a document proves some students had the right to attend after all. But the lawyer for seven students affected by the policy change says that doesn’t help all of her clients, and the legal pressure will continue.

FCS abruptly ended a longstanding program allowing out-of-district students to attend the Sandy Springs high school – which is a dual-magnet art and math/science program — for a fee. The largely unexplained move, announced the week of the Fourth of July holiday and just over a month before the school year starts, left 14 families scrambling. Three seniors were allowed to remain at the school as a “one-time hardship,” FCS previously said, but the others faced a short-notice return to their home district, which appeared to be DeKalb County in most cases.

The entrance of North Springs Charter High School at 7447 Roswell Road. (Fulton County Schools)

FCS previously said that out-of-district enrollment is illegal under the district’s charter system, adopted in 2012, but went unnoticed. The district has not explained who did notice, when, or why the district chose the timing and response it has.

Some parents said all along that North Springs had a special dispensation from FCS to continue out-of-district enrollment. FCS now acknowledges that is partly true and that it will allow students who enrolled during or before the 2016-17 school year to continue attending, if they pay the tuition fee and get clearance from their home districts.

FCS announced the change in a press release issued after 9 p.m. on July 16. It was the district’s first press release about the issue – parents previously were notified privately — and appears to have been circulated only to select journalists rather the usual full list. The press release summarized the policy change, and added:

“Last Thursday, however, a letter from a previous superintendent that made provisions for out-of-district students to remain at North Springs High (if they had been enrolled on or before the 2016-17 school year) was brought to our attention.”

In comments on Friday, July 13 – after FCS now says it was aware of the previous superintendent’s commitment – FCS spokesperson Susan Hale told the Reporter that the district was working on an unspecified “resolution,” but she did not mention the letter.

Kelly Himes Brolly, the Sandy Springs-based attorney representing seven of North Springs’ out-of-district students, says FCS’s latest policy shift “does not encompass all the students who attended North Springs.” So the legal advocacy for all of the out-of-district students to remain enrolled will continue.

Brolly said she intended to speak about the issue at a state Board of Education meeting on the morning of July 17.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.