I’ve taught in only two high schools. The first high school that I taught at was Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County Public Schools, and during the years that I taught there, we had 3200+ students attending that school. At Mill Creek High School, one of the top-performing schools in GCPS, there are almost 4000 students.
The second high school I taught at was Cross Keys High School, and during this year, we have had over 1500 students. There are strengths that exist in both types of models, and I hope to explore these in a way that will help the community to think through these issues in a critical way in order to arrive at an idea that will benefit the maximum number of students. That point is key – we as a community should want to maximize the benefit to the maximum number of students.
Benefits of 1500-student High Schools
In a smaller high school, students don’t feel like they are a “little fish in a big pond” – as one Dresden East Community Association member put it. By having three different high schools comprising 1500 students each – Cross Keys HS in Brookhaven, Chamblee HS in Chamblee, and a new Doraville HS in Doraville – this would accomplish the following:
- Greater individual city and community cohesion
- greater sense of community within the school and each city as a whole
- room to grow as the region grows (ability to add onto each of the 3 high schools)
- massive redistricting in the present, but prevention of future massive changes to attendance zone lines
This also translates into more schools, more buses, more principals and administrators, more custodians, etc. all of which equal greater expenses (but perhaps with a better return on investment).
I laid out this original argument in an earlier post last fall.
Benefits of 3000-student High Schools
Another option that isn’t as popular with some parents would be to close one of our high schools in region 1, and create a large public high school.
For Region 1 of DeKalb County Schools, that would look like a high school (with roughly 3000 students) located in Chamblee at the current Chamblee Charter High School. This central high school would serve Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville (and parts of unincorporated DeKalb) and would do the following:
- promote unity between the three cities
- share resources
- integrate a greater number of diverse students
- save money for the district
- greater strength competing athletically and otherwise
- improve the ESOL programs at both Cross Keys HS and Chamblee HS
It’s important to note that both this option and the 1500-student high school option would include the magnet program remaining at Chamblee Charter High School. This option would be the least disruptive option in the present; however, it would potentially kick the proverbial “can” down the road.
Currently, Cross Keys High School is predicted to have 1400 students next year and Chamblee Charter High School is projected to have 1600 – and this is accounting for the 232 students who are being redistricted for CCHS.
Taking these numbers into consideration, we would already be at 3000 students by the time this “unified” high school opens. From what I have heard, the cafeteria at CCHS is supposed to only to be able to accommodate a 2800 student enrollment, so that would make this school overcrowded on day one of “integration.”
One idea to mitigate this issue would be to have Chamblee High School claim the land from Chamblee Middle School, expanding its high school campus and re-allocating students in the middle schools. The magnet school could potentially occupy this “former” Chamblee MS property.
What is now the Cross Keys High School building could serve as a middle school and what is now Sequoyah Middle School would serve as the other middle school. This would address the overcrowding issue from both the middle school and high school standpoints.
The new district would look like this:
This is all to say that parents would need to be okay with sending their children to a 3000+ student school and that they are okay with their school having a different “personality” than it currently has.
In my mind, this integrating of two medium-sized high schools into one large high school can benefit our community and our school system (both financially, academically, and athletically), but we need to be okay with thinking outside the box and making some changes to our comfort zones.
I will lay out a third possible option in my next post – and this next option, I believe will be disruptive in the present but could provide a “middle-ground” option for both the Chamblee and Cross Keys clusters.
Please feel free to comment below or email me personally: firstname.lastname@example.org.