by Maggie Lee
DeKalb County School System Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson presented her plan for school closures and redistricting to a crowd of more than 200 at a county board of education in Stone Mountain on Monday night. She wants to close eight schools, down from a previous proposal of 14. The I-20 corridor would lose the most.
Five elementary schools in the south-central part of the county are on the chopping block this summer: Sky Haven and Gresham Park along I-20; and Peachcrest, Glen Haven and Atherton, all near I-285 and Covington Highway.
Surrounding schools would absorb those students for the next few years. Ultimately, though, DeKalb is looking at creating consolidated elementary schools in some of those neighborhoods to serve as many as 900 students.
In Avondale, the high school would remain the DeKalb School of the Arts and the middle school would be shuttered and perhaps one day reopen as something else.
Medlock Elementary School, off Scott Boulevard in north DeKalb would also close.
In each case, nearby school districts shift slightly around the edges to accommodate the closures. A total of nearly 9,000 students– that’s 9 percent of the total –would be affected.
Tyson’s plan doesn’t rule out more closures after the end of the 2011-12 school year. At least four schools are still on the line: Livsey, Bob Mathis, Rock Chapel and Toney elementary schools, as well as Wadsworth and Kittredge magnets.
Kevin Griffin, whose daughter has already graduated Southwest DeKalb High School, is nonetheless following the months-long trudge to redraw school borders and scrap the approximately 11,000 empty seats in southern DeKalb schools while dealing with increasing overcrowding toward the north. Griffin said he’s not convinced the schools “are staying on the focus of our children.” He asked rhetorically how much money is spent in DeKalb on trips or other unnecessary expenses, adding that he sympathizes with principals whose hands are tied by too many county rules.
A mom from Briarlake Elementary on LaVista Road said she’s pleased with the proposal. “They kept our feeder plan intact,” said Whitney Blackmore. “I think they listened, made something that worked.”
The redraws and closures would save some $12.4 million annually, according to Tyson’s presentation. It also assures full state funding–some monies are cut off to elementary schools that serve fewer than 450 students or any school less than three-quarters full. More than 20 schools fell below one or the other of those bars.
There will be no layoffs, said board chairmain Thomas Bowen. “The resources will follow the child,” he explained.
At least one group of very active parents apparently got the draft changed to suit them.
Before the meeting, in the cold rain outside, about 20 men gathered under umbrellas and their protest signs, angry because their apartments at a complex called Jefferson at Perimeter in Dunwoody would shift from Vanderlyn Elementary to Dunwoody Elementary under the plan. They alleged that such a line is unfair to apartment-dwellers and cordoned off Vanderlyn exclusively for people who live in houses.
They talked of such a line being something perhaps worthy of a lawsuit. But apparently they can breathe easy. When a consultant presented Tyson’s proposed north side map, he said it’s not exactly as envisioned in an earlier draft. One obvious change? The red cordon that outlines Vanderlyn’s district pokes out a little differently, encircling Jefferson at Perimeter.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the redistricting at its March 7 meeting. There are two public hearings in the meantime, March 1 and March 3 both at 6:30 p.m. at school headquarters, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain.