She may be switching school boards, but Michelle Atkinson remains an advocate for Kids Unlimited Academy.

Serving as KUA board president since 2019, Atkinson recently was elected to serve on the Medford School District Board of Education. Because state law prohibits service on two school boards, Atkinson stepped down from KUA’s. Retired KUA Principal Jani Hale will take Atkinson’s seat.

“She’s really made a huge impact during her tenure at KU Academy,” said KU founder and CEO Tom Cole.

Atkinson led the KUA board through some of the school’s greatest challenges and most pivotal changes, including the response to closures during the COVID pandemic and extension of KUA’s academic calendar to year-round school. Among her primary responsibilities was interaction with the Medford school board on behalf of KUA, which has a public charter with District 549C. Atkinson said she still will play a role in supporting KUA under the larger school district umbrella.

“I won’t be going anywhere.”

Atkinson said she hopes to bring some of the lessons learned at KUA to the Medford school board, including improved food service at the district level. KUA added its gym, sports field and cafeteria during her board tenure.

“I just love the nutrition program at Kids Unlimited Academy,” she said. “I think nutrition is super important.”

The importance of alleviating COVID’s impacts on KUA students led to the innovation of year-round school, the first for an Oregon public institution, as well as expanded KUA enrollment with Medford school board approval, said Atkinson. Amid the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on KUA students, additional funding was secured from the Medford school board, she said.

“That one thing made a huge difference,” she said. “We kind of leveraged it into an opportunity.”

The board also devised a way during COVID to offer in-person, although socially distanced, afterschool programs while remote learning constituted the regular school day, said Atkinson.

“Students were being left home alone … and it wasn’t a very safe situation.”

Atkinson, who previously worked in software development, has three children who attend Medford’s Hoover Elementary. She got her start in politics and board service about 15 years ago successfully campaigning for the creation of a special library service district in response to Jackson County’s closure of its library branches. She then served on Friends of the Medford Library’s board. Inspired by hearing Cole speak at a local education symposium, Atkinson was recruited to the KUA board in 2017.

A graduate of South Medford High School, Atkinson knew Hale — then South’s vice principal — when she was a student. She and Hale were among the board members and administrators who developed KUA’s new parent/student compact.

“I’m really proud of the achievements,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson’s service will be honored at KUA’s first family night of the new school year: 6 p.m. Sept. 12, on the Medford campus.