This is one of those times where, as a community, if we voice concerns, we risk sounding “ungrateful.” But if we stay silent, we continue to feel unheard.
I understand the situation that has been created in the Cross Keys cluster has been a long time coming and that we can’t solve a complex problem in one fell, efficacious swoop.
I truly appreciate DeKalb County Schools and the Board of Education for taking the time to address this decades-long issue. With the latest decision to redistrict, I think we all realize that no one will win in this situation, and unfortunately, our kids are going to be the ones who lose the most. But I do want to say how much we appreciate the timely response Dr. Green has give to our community since he arrived last summer.
However, there is still much work to be done as we move into the next few months, during which district officials like Josh Williams (Chief Operating Officer) and Dan Drake (Director of Planning) will be working with district stakeholders and those doing the high school and middle school feasibility study to propose a more long-term solution for our Cross Keys cluster.
For now, I sympathize with the families of students from the Montclair Elementary School attendance zone who – due to the “temporary” redistricting plan – will now have to figure out if they are going to either move to a different location or have their children bused all the way down to Fernbank Elementary School.
I also want to say that I’m concerned about our juniors and seniors at Cross Keys High School who will now have to decide whether they will take the district-provided bus transportation to Chamblee High School or pay their own way to Cross Keys High School.
Under the redistricting plan (which goes into effect July 2016), CKHS rising juniors and seniors will have the choice to stay at Cross Keys High School, but they will not be provided transportation. It’s troubling to me that these students (not the district) are going to have to bear the burden of financial cost should they choose to stay at their home school for their last year or two of high school. The district, in my opinion, should pay for the cost of transportation since they were the ones who created this overcrowding and problematic situation.
A better solution might have been to allow rising juniors and seniors to stay at Cross Keys High School (with transportation provided) and to include a larger attendance area (including almost all the land outside of I-285 which is currently 10 miles from CKHS) to attend Chamblee High School. This way, more families would be included in the new Chamblee High School attendance zone and only freshmen and sophomores would have their high school changed.
I have also repeatedly voiced my disappointment that the district did not provide a plan to alleviate the overcrowding of Sequoyah Middle School. Normally I don’t use rhetorical questions to challenge ideas, but in this case, I think it is the best way to sum things up:
Why should Sequoyah Middle School have 17 portable classrooms and Chamblee Middle School have 0? (One might also be interested in knowing that Peachtree Middle School, which feeds into Dunwoody High School, has 12 portable classrooms.)
Lastly, many parents requested redistricting during the past few months at the community meetings; however, no parent was aware that by advocating for redistricting, they were advocating for their children to be sent to a school over half an hour away.
I mostly understood the request for redistricting to be a request for schools close-by (i.e. Chamblee MS, Chamblee HS, Ashford Park ES) to receive students, since they are within the same cities and communities of our Cross Keys cluster students. I think this is why many parents are voicing frustrations and concerns about how the district decided to redistribute the students. (More parents comments available here and here.)
Again, I want to reiterate that I and the community appreciate the immediate attention given to us by Dr. Green, the Board of Education, and district officials. However, I wanted to explain why parents still might not be entirely satisfied with the plan that the BOE eventually approved.
Hopefully this next phase of planning and redistricting for our schools will be done in a way that not only demonstrates concern for our cluster, but also demonstrates that the district truly understands the needs of our community. As a cluster, though, I hope that our parents, teachers, community members and students continue to be involved in this process as I still believe that our voices truly matter.
Let’s keep working together.