By now you might have heard that the DeKalb Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green called for a public meeting for the Cross Keys cluster. Two meetings took place — one at Cross Keys HS on Tuesday night and the other at Sequoyah Middle School on Thursday night. Both meetings presented the district’s tentative plan to address overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster, and then the community was asked to provide feedback. Speakers were given two minutes each and were allowed to comment for a total of one hour during each meeting.
(Click here to view DeKalb’s Proposal to Address Over-Capacity Issues in the Cross Keys Cluster.)
Below are some of the comments from the community that were voiced tonight and Tuesday night after the presentation:
- One parent told how her son peed on himself twice because he was out in the trailers and couldn’t get to the bathroom in time. Because teachers are in the trailers with over 30 children, it’s very difficult to take students to the bathroom without having to either take the entire class or call an adult escort to take the 5-year-old to the bathroom. She thanked the presenters for making the presentation, but said that we need solutions NOW – not in a year or two.
- Councilman Bates Mattison (Brookhaven) offered Brookhaven Innovation Academy (a 1st through 8th grade charter school) as an option to the overcrowding if only DeKalb BOE would grant Brookhaven Innovation Academy charter status, which would allow preference to be given to DeKalb students (currently they have only been approved as a state charter school so they must open their enrollment to every student in the state).
- Mayor Donna Pittman (Doraville), Representative Taylor Bennett (State Representative, House District 80), and Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams (Brookhaven) thanked the superintendent for the meetings and said they would like to work collaboratively to come up with solutions to the school overcrowding issues.
- The refrain heard most often was “redistrict”. Many teachers (including myself), parents, and community advocates demanded redistricting since many schools in DeKalb are not as overcrowded as the Cross Keys cluster schools are nor do they have to go to school in buildings that suffer from such disrepair.
- Many parents and teachers complained about trailers and classrooms not having air conditioning and requested immediate attention to these issues.
- Catie Spencer (former teacher at Cary Reynolds Elementary School) and one of the parents in the district talked about how there are way too many students on the buses. They discussed how there are many times 4 kids to a seat and still there are kids who don’t have a place to sit on the bus. She (and other parents) stated that even though it will require money (which may be difficult to come by), that’s not going to be an excuse if the bus were to get into an accident.
- A current Cross Keys High School student (and a Cary Reynolds Elementary and Sequoyah Middle alumnus) stood up and asked for the county to pay attention to the overcrowding issue, discussing the problems with children not fitting on the buses and conditions in the school buildings.
- Many stakeholders begged for new construction (which I also advocate for) since there are already many schools in DeKalb who have brand-new buildings while the CK cluster experiences hundreds over capacity in old school buildings.
- A teacher from Warren Technical School (a school which serves the exceptional student population) spoke out against relocating their students multiple times (which has been done in the past and, according to the new plan, is also proposed to alleviate the overcrowding). The school trains students in different fields such as auto repair, hospitality, building maintenance, construction, while also pairing with businesses in the community. Students receive summer internships and many students eventually are employed by Warren Tech’s community partners (such as Buckhead Marriott, local auto repair shops, etc.). You can read more about their programs here.
- There was an overwhelming consensus against the third and fourth grade (and then the next year fourth and fifth grade) academies, one of the key items in the county’s proposal (which you can view in the first link), Heather Isaacson, former Cary Reynolds PTA president and a parent of two boys who attended the elementary school (but are now at Chamblee Middle School and Kittridge Magnet School for High Achievers) argued that many parents would find it burdensome to take their children to potentially four different campuses (the elementary school, the academy, the middle school, and then the high school) during the course of one day.
- Heather Isaacson also explained how she saw visible inequities in the facilities offered at these magnet schools (both school in DeKalb County School System). She challenged the district to provide the same quality facilities for all DCSS students.
- Lastly, one community stakeholder stated that if the county did not provide solutions to the overcrowding and inequity by listening to the voices of the community, then perhaps the county would listen to “the courts” — implying that perhaps a lawsuit may be necessary to motivate the county towards addressing the issue.
At the close of the audience response, the DeKalb County COO said that they would address the bus issue immediately and that they would address the request for redistricting. They promised to continue to work on a solution that would benefit all families in the district.