Here is a preview of what I’m planning on saying tomorrow night at the February 1 DeKalb County School Board of Education meeting. Please share with stakeholders and please offer feedback so that I can ensure that I truly am representing the collective interests of our Cross Keys community. It should only take you 3 minutes to read — since that’s all the time I will have to speak during the public comment portion of the BOE meeting.

Doors open at 5:30PM at the DeKalb County Central Office — 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain, GA  30083. See you there! 🙂

Good evening members of the board, Dr. Green, and Dr. Johnson. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you all tonight.

I am here to speak as mother of two children who will eventually attend Cary Reynolds Elementary in the fall of 2018. I am here to speak on behalf of my Spanish-speaking neighbors and dear friends. I am here to speak as someone who is tired of hearing the stories of families who continue to move out of my neighborhood when their children reach school age because they don’t want their kids to attend the schools within the Cross Keys cluster.

This is not right and something needs to be done. I appreciate the attention you have given to the cluster by proposing different options to alleviate the overcrowding.

However, we as a community are not satisfied.

Over and over, in meetings at the Latin American Association, at Sequoyah Middle School, and at informal interchanges I’ve had with parents and students, I have heard the same refrain — the current 3 elementary school options on the table for redistricting take students away from their neighborhood schools. This is a sentiment shared by people from Dresden Elementary all the way to Briar Vista Elementary. Many of these families depend on being able to walk, take transit, or take cab rides, so moving students a long distance merely substitutes one burden – overcrowding – for another – difficulties with transportation.

Why don’t we leave the elementary students where they are and spend the money and effort on renovating & expanding the schools we have currently? In addition to this, we as the community would also like some type of commitment that the district will build new elementary schools in lieu of spending the time and money on the redistricting effort.

Regarding the 2 high school options: Chamblee High School needs to offer the full 300 seats that they have available. At Chamblee High School, more seats are available at lunchtime in the cafeteria, more technology is available, more computer labs are available. Therefore, we are not just talking about classroom space but general building capacity and educational support. The same goes for Chamblee Middle School.

Chamblee Middle School should take middle school students who are close to it and (if necessary) place a couple trailers on the property. Why was this school – which has 150 currently available seats – not even a part of the proposed options?

One cluster should not bear the effects of overcrowding while another cluster is protected from this because of the way that the attendance zone lines are drawn. Under the current options, the Cross Keys cluster continues to add trailers while the Chamblee High and Chamblee Middle are projected to receive ZERO.

I agree with the idea that SPLOST V funding should be somewhat flexible. However, there are many needs in the district in overcrowded and dilapidated schools (like in the Stone Mountain cluster, as we heard a few weeks ago). We need to set aside funds to improve, rebuild, and expand specific buildings and areas that we know currently need the money. However, I do think we should leave aside a certain percentage of the proposed $500 million in SPLOST dollars to fund projects that will become important in the next few years – projects that we cannot possibly know about now. One of the issues many have had with SPLOST dollars is that the money is committed too far in advance. This makes it impossible to use the money in a manner that quickly addresses district needs, something which would serve our school district well.

In conclusion, I strongly support the purchase and renovation of the former Skyland Elementary School. This would alleviate overcrowding while still keeping neighborhoods in-tact. Please build at least two new elementary schools in Region 1 and expand and renovate the schools that we currently have– schools like Cary Reynolds, Dresden, Montclair, Cross Keys, and Woodward. We love our community and we don’t want our families to be burdened by the time and the expenses that all the district proposals would put into place. Thank you for thoughtfully considering these things.