Two weeks ago, DeKalb County Schools hosted two community input sessions regarding the over-crowding of the Cross Keys cluster schools (click here to view video footage of the 9/15 meeting and the 9/17 meeting, and here for the presentation).

During these meetings – especially the second meeting at Sequoyah Middle School – many community members and teachers pleaded for the district to consider redistricting as an option instead of creating third and fourth grade academies. I agree with their criticism of the plan to create third and fourth grade (and eventually fourth and fifth grade academies) as something that would unnecessarily burden parents with multiple children at multiple campuses.

Click here to read a short letter (shared with permission) by Dunwoody City Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch, who has seen firsthand the issues with two-grade academies and has taken the time to share her thoughts with the DeKalb BOE.

(My next post will address what I believe, would be a good alternative to the proposed Phase 2.)

However, my biggest criticism of the Phase 3 proposal is that the solutions proposed by the district ignore the potential to alleviate overcrowding through redistricting which would allow a more efficient use of existing buildings.

Because the Cross Keys cluster has been overlooked by the school system for years, any effective solution should require all the surrounding communities to help alleviate the overcrowding and address the segregation that has occurred within its region.

In lieu of Phase 3, I propose a redistricting of Region 1 (which includes the Dunwoody Cluster, the Chamblee cluster, and the Cross Keys cluster) and the construction and renovation of existing buildings to provide for additional schools in Region 1 (to be determined based on the impact these new districts would have on over-capacity).

Below I will explain how the lines could be drawn in order to more equitably accommodate the communities and the needs of each community.

Here is what the current attendance zones look like for Region 1.

Redistrict According to City Boundaries

Last Monday, I wrote an op-ed piece in the AJC against independent city school districts. I still stand by my argument against cities breaking away from the county district to form their own school districts. (Click here to read that article).

I do, however, think that redistricting within the existing DeKalb School System according to city boundaries (as much as possible) would accomplish the following positive things:

  1. Funding remains with the county system (with the potential to be more equitably distributed)
  2. Students are still able to apply for intradistrict transfers within the county system (i.e. a student zoned for Cross Keys HS could apply for a transfer to Lakeside HS, in Region 2 of the DCSD)
  3. The tighter district lines meets the needs of those who want to have a more consolidated community that centers around one high school (with its feeder middle school(s) and elementary schools)
  4. The smaller district will allow for more efficient transportation for students (since the buses won’t have to take students up to 10 miles to their high school, as they currently do within the Cross Keys HS attendance zone)
  5. Promote integration of different socioeconomic statuses and races
  6. Those who want a city school district will be able to, in some ways, have this (without the ability to control personnel within the school and without the ability to control funding)

During Phase 3 (per my proposal), the feeder patterns would be as follows:*

  • Cross Keys HS Cluster (proposed new): Woodward ES, Montclair ES, Ashford Park ES; NEW middle school (re-purpose the old Briarcliff HS or International Student Center to become a middle school)
  • Chamblee HS cluster (proposed new): Huntley Hills ES, Dresden ES, Montgomery ES; Chamblee Middle School
  • NEW HS (proposed new): Cary Reynolds ES, Hightower ES, Oakcliff ES; Sequoyah Middle School

*Based on the number of elementary, middle, and high school students in each city, we would evaluate where new construction is needed based on these patterns. By the time a complete redistricting occurs, the goal would be to have construction completed such that there would be capacity for all students in each cluster.

(Map of Current & Proposed DeKalb Cities)

Construction & Renovation of New Schools

So that each proposed new cluster would have a high school, middle school, and elementary schools, I think we should begin thinking about the following two options:

Middle School Construction. In order to accommodate the tremendous amount of growth expected in the coming years, we need to think long-term. The dormant buildings on North Druid Hills Road by Adams Stadium (the former International Student Center and Briarcliff HS) should be utilized since the county already owns the land. These schools lie just outside of the city limits of Brookhaven and seem to be a logical and financially feasible choice as the site of the future middle school or elementary school (which wouldn’t have an existing middle school in my proposed Cross Keys cluster). At the Cross Keys Community Meeting, Representative Taylor Bennett expressed a desire to promote collaboration between the city and county levels, so this could be an opportunity to move forward with that collaboration.

High School Construction.  Constructing a new school or repurposing an existing building in the city of Doraville would create a high school that actually serves the community (instead of Cross Keys, which is miles away from students residing in Doraville). At the Cross Keys Community Meeting that DeKalb County School District hosted, Mayor Donna Pittman expressed a sincere interest in collaborating with DCSD, so perhaps this would give the city of Doraville the chance to do just that.

For a quantitative view of each cluster and the number of single trailers or “portable classrooms” and “quad structures” (portable structures with four classrooms each with male and female restrooms), please see the chart below.

Cluster Campus Single Structures Quad Structures Total “Classrooms”
Chamblee Montgomery 5 0 5
Kittredge 0 0 0
Huntley Hills 6 0 6
Ashford Park 5 0 5
Chamblee MS 0 0 0
Chamblee HS 0 0 0
TOTAL CHAMBLEE   16 0 16
Average 2.6 structures per campus
Cross Keys Oakcliff 0 0 0
Cary Reynolds 25 0 25
Montclair 9 0 9
Dresden 26 0 26
Woodward 8 1 12
Sequoyah 5 3 17
Cross Keys 3 3 15
TOTAL CROSS KEYS   86 7 114
Average 13.3 structures per campus
Dunwoody Austin 4 0 4
Vanderlyn 3 2 11
Dunwoody ES 0 0 0
Kingsley 5 0 5
Chestnut 1 0 1
Hightower 9 1 13
Peachtree MS 4 2 12
Dunwoody HS 0 0 0
TOTAL DUNWOODY   26 5 46
Average 3.9 structures per campus

*Compiled by Brian Bates of the Doraville Schools Task Force