Michele Yulo envisioned herself living in the Livsey Elementary School district for decades when she and her family moved there two years ago. Two years from now there may not be a Livsey school district.
Yulo was one of nearly 20 concerned parents of Livsey Elementary students who protested last week in front of the DeKalb County School System complex in Stone Mountain. Livsey is one of 14 schools slated to close in a consolidation and redistricting proposal under consideration by the school board.
Parents have rallied around the high-performing school, which is under scrutiny because it houses fewer than 450 students. The school is at 96 percent capacity, but its small size keeps it from getting certain state funding.
“I thought this was where we were going to be for the next 30 years,” Yulo said. “I’m shell-shocked. People are thinking of moving because of this.”
Twenty-seven schools in the county, according to the proposal, are at less than 75 percent capacity, which is the minimum required for certain state funding. Schools with fewer than 450 students also lose some funding options. There are 11,000 empty seats throughout the system, and the proposal, which has two options, will eliminate as many as 6,500 empty seats. As many as 16,000 students will attend different schools under the proposal.
“I do understand seats need to be filled, but people are not looking at performance, they are not going into the schools and seeing what the students are accomplishing,” Yulo said. “We’re shifting all these kids and it won’t even fill up half the empty seats.”
DeKalb County Schools spokesman Walter Woods pointed out that the proposals could change by the time interim superintendent Ramona Tyson makes her recommendation to the board on Feb. 7. There will be two public hearings after that and the board is scheduled to vote on March 7.
The system has held six public information workshops for residents to learn more about the proposal and to voice their concerns. Thousands of residents attended the workshops, which were held at high schools and middle schools throughout the county.
“The present situation is not an efficient way to run the district,” Woods said. “Some schools have too few students and there is overcrowding in some. Our goal is to right-size the school system. We want to make sure we have the right mix and we don’t want to bus students around the county.
“What the original proposal says may not be what is voted on or approved [next month],” Woods said.
The school system is waiting to receive word on how much money it will save by implementing a consolidation and redistricting plan.
Michelle Gopman and her husband Bidzina Abduladze also were among the demonstrators who held Save Livsey signs.
“We specifically sought out our neighborhood because of Livsey,” said Gopman, who held a sign that read “Paul Womack Doesn’t Care About My Kids.” Womack is a board member who represents the district that contains Livsey. Gopman has a daughter in kindergarten at Livsey and also a 3-year-old.
“The government is taking away our choice,” Gopman said.