The DeKalb County School Board on July 11 approved an amended contract on to allow T-Mobile to install several cell towers at schools throughout the county.
The original proposal from the cellular provider recommended towers at Margaret Harris Center, Briarlake, Brockett, Flat Rock, Jolly, Princeton, Smoke Rise, Narvie J. Harris, Meadowview and Medlock elementary schools, and Lakeside and Martin Luther King Jr. high schools.
However, the board decided to remove Meadowview, Medlock and Brockett elementary schools from the plan after residents expressed concerns about having the towers so close to their homes and to their children.
“It’s going to bring a lot of money to the school system so it’s very seductive, but folks, we don’t know what the health effects are yet,” Melinda Lehrer, who lives in the Medlock neighborhood said.
School spokesman Walter Woods said the revenue from the towers would be split by the board with the Parent Teachers Associations of the schools where they were located.
Woods said that, in some cases, the PTA could receive approximately $25,000 and the board could approve it as early as this summer.
Residents of Meadowview, Medlock and Brockett also expressed concern about long-term health effects and how the towers might affect real estate values if the towers were installed in their neighborhood.
“We have heard from basically two communities, and I’ve always supported a community’s right to determine the kind of things they want. These folks have made it very clear that this is the way they feel about the cell towers so I’m supporting their opinion,” said board member Donald McChesney, who proposed the amendment.
The board also denied several applications for five-year charter schools based on staff opinions that they were incomplete and represented more of a preliminary draft rather than an action plan.
Applications were presented for DeKalb Preparatory Academy, Ivy Preparatory Academy at DeKalb and Ivy Preparatory Young Men’s Leadership Academy.
“We met with the petitioners for two hours to go over the petition with the charter review team and it was a unanimous decision based on the petition that was submitted to us...we felt it was incomplete,” Nicole Knighten, director of governmental relations and special projects said of Ivy Preparatory Academy.
The board also moved a vote on the petition from Peachtree Hope Charter School for a five-year charter until a later date. The board recently allowed both the Museum School of Avondale Estates and Peachtree Hope Charter School a one-year waiver to continue operating as they prepared to submit a five-year application. That waiver was revoked from Peachtree Hope after the board found out that the school had fired its management team, SABIS, a global education management organization.
After holding three public hearings on the millage rate, the board also voted unanimously to keep the rate at 22.98 mils.
“I’m just going to make one comment,” Vice-Chairman Paul Womack said. “We have not increased the millage since 2003.”