A member of the Oakcliff Neighborhood (located in Doraville), who serves on the steering committee in Region 1 for the Secondary Schools Facility Planning and Feasibility Study for DeKalb County Schools, recently sent out an email to the different neighborhood associations in the Doraville area. In this email, she broke down the different options presented by DCSD while also adding a bit of commentary.

She summarized the meeting in this way: “The meeting I attended at Chamblee HS last night was conducted like a focus group to get feedback about a draft of four options being considered as part of the Secondary Schools Facility Planning & Feasibility Study being conducted by DeKalb County and Education Planners LLC. The study is based on Enrollment Projections for 2022 and is focused on improving DeKalb County Public Secondary School facilities to better meet the needs of students. We were told to focus on student enrollment and four options were presented: OPTION 1- (new Cluster Approach), OPTION 2A- (Expanding Existing Capacity), OPTION 2B (Expanding Existing Capacity + Relocating Chamblee Magnets), OPTION 3 (Utilizing Existing Capacity).”

She also added the following: “OPTION 1 would…create a new 2,200 seat Sequoyah-area high school and a new 1,500 seat Cross Keys-area middle school to eliminate 92 percent of the current portable classrooms (60 out of 64) and add a 500 seat addition at Lakeside HS and a 200 seat addition at Clarkston HS.

“OPTION 2A would focus on new classrooms at eight schools and attendance adjustments at seven middle schools and seven high schools…It provided no new or replacement schools and just adds to the physical overcrowding at our existing schools.

“OPTION 2B would focus on new classrooms at six schools and attendance adjustments at eight middle schools and eight high schools. It would create no new schools or replacement schools. It would also relocate the magnet programs away from Chamblee Middle School and Chamblee High School.

“ OPTION 3 would…[disrupt] every cluster with attendance zone shifts at every middle and high school and losing MS-HS one-to-one feeders and maybe also some ES – MS one-to-one feeders without providing complete relief for over capacity schools and would still cost $ 96M.”

There are positives and negatives associated with each one. Here is my interpretation, as I see it:

OPTION 1: NEW HIGH SCHOOL CLUSTER (redistricting included)

This first option has several positives in that it eliminates 92% of the trailers used to relieve severe overcrowding while also adding onto Lakeside and Clarkston (which are also experiencing — and will continue to experience — overcrowding). It also creates a high school in an area that currently does not have a high school, and it allows for students to reduce their travel times to their high school. (Cross Keys HS attendance zone is over 10 miles long – something no other high school attendance zone experiences in DeKalb.) As I have argued before, creating a high school in Doraville will improve the community which has suffered blight, disinvestment, and poverty for years. It will also address the overcrowding situation with the least amount of disruption to other school attendance zones (something which is no doubt popular with the Chamblee and Lakeside communities).

My biggest concern with OPTION 1 is that is would break up the Cross Keys community, which many parents and community members appreciate. This is because it would most likely divide Region 1 into a Dunwoody cluster, and Chamblee cluster, a Brookhaven (Cross Keys) cluster, and a Doraville cluster. The inevitable integration of the Brookhaven and Chamblee neighborhoods with the communities along Buford Highway would perhaps be a touchy subject.

OPTION 2A: REDISTRICTING AND SCHOOL ADDITIONS

This option seems to be a bit more affordable for the district since no additional purchasing of land is required (at least, as far as I can tell). Cross Keys HS (and as far as I know, Lakeside and the other schools mentioned) has land space to build (and if not land space, you could always build UP). Sequoyah MS does as well.

Regarding the redistricting of 8 high schools and 8 middle schools – because I don’t know all that that would entail, I cannot say whether that would be desirable or not. I am not against redistricting. However, many communities loath the word, and the very thought of their child not attending X high school or middle school is often unthinkable, so I am not sure this option will get much support.

On the flip side, if we were to add onto the different schools – Cross Keys HS, for example – I know that students would still be traveling up to 10 miles to attend their high school which is not conducive for parent involvement or community cohesion. Something needs to be done about the strange, gerrymandered shape of the Cross Keys cluster, and this option does not seem to address that concern.

OPTION 2B: RELOCATING THE CHAMBLEE MS/HS MAGNET PROGRAMS, PLUS REDISTRICTING, PLUS SCHOOL ADDITIONS

Many families will not even consider this option when they see this suggested; however, it does not make sense to have a choice program that draws from all over the county to be located in a region that is severely overcrowded. Removing the magnet program makes sense when considering the hundreds of seats that will be available once it relocates to another school in the central part of the county (perhaps at the former Briarcliff HS location?).

As stated above, building onto existing schools seems to be more affordable than purchasing new land to build a new school. My concern with this option, like my concern with OPTION 2A, is that the Cross Keys cluster could still end up being a segregated, gerrymandered attendance zone. This, to me, seems like a negative — unless the redistricting portion of OPTION 2B addresses this concern.

OPTION 3: NO NEW SCHOOLS OR ADDITIONS; REDISTRICTING AND SPLIT FEEDER SCHOOLS

This option seems to be logical given the fact that we have schools in Regions 4 and 5 that are under-capacity while schools in Regions 1, 2, and 3 are bursting at the seams. If we already own the property and the schools, why not shift everything South?

A few concerns about this option would be the massive disruption to current communities. I fear this option will be the most contentious, politically speaking. That, however, does not seem to be a legitimate reason to dismiss this option. The DeKalb County School District needs to seriously reconsider how it has constructed, redistricted, and maintained its school facilities, and if this option is the most economical and the most practical, then it deserves fair consideration.

Over the next few weeks, DCSD and Education Planners, LLC. will continue to host steering committee meetings in each of the 5 regions. Please contact your school if you would like to know who is serving on your area’s steering committee so that you can continue to be involved in this process.

As of today, the date and location of the final round of public input meetings are:

-Tuesday, August 23 in the auditorium at Clarkston HS at 6:30pm

-Thursday, August 25 in the gymnasium at Cross Keys HS at 6:30pm

Please don’t miss your opportunity to have a voice in shaping our district to become one of academic excellence and of racial and socioeconomic equity.