Dunwoody HS & Peachtree MS – Secondary Schools Study Position

I appreciate the time and effort the Dunwoody Cluster elementary, middle and high school councils and foundations put into this decision on such short notice.
The Dunwoody High School Council is recommending Option B with 600 seats added to DHS. Option B is the “Split Feeder” option, so the school council is requesting Option B be modified to include $17 million for an addition to PCMS to avoid the split feeder.
Key Takeaways – Facilities Study – Round 3 Meetings
Round 3 – Secondary School Facility Planning And Feasibility Study
Facilities Planning Online Survey Results to Date
Pro & Cons – Options From The Secondary School Planning Study

There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about three options that have been presented by Dekalb County School System to deal with the growing student population in our middle and high schools.  A recommendation has been requested from the school councils at Dunwoody High and Peachtree Middle.  If you are busy and don’t want to read the full justification, please click the link below to an online survey and select Option B.https://goo.gl/forms/kSFTQLhRzoTUObSr2
Why Option B?
1.      When representatives from PCMS, DHS, and elementary schools throughout our cluster met to discuss these options, we were all still learning about the options, but there was a unifying ideal of keeping our Dunwoody kids at Dunwoody High School.  Options A & C send roughly 30% of the kids currently zoned to DHS to either a new Sequoyah High School in Doraville or to Chamblee HS.  No decisions have been made at this time as to where those kids will come from, but the process would surely not be a fun one for our community.  Option B keeps our attendance zone intact.
2.      Option B comes  with a $23,000,000 investment in Dunwoody High School.  Options A & C come with $0 for schools in the Dunwoody cluster.  (Note that there are other pockets of eSPLOST money that could go to our schools, but this is the only category being discussed by the school system at this time.)  DHS is full of amazing teachers, kids, and parents who make the DHS community great, but aspects of the facility are limiting.  As a Council last year we realized the toil involved in getting even small investments in our school.  Throughout the year we pushed to get an adequate supply of functioning lockers for the kids, signage on the front of the school with our name on it, and more than one functioning copier in the school for teachers.  Progress was made, but the journey shed light on the difficulty involved in getting things done.  This option presents a unique opportunity for a significant portion of eSPLOST money to be dedicated to our cluster.  This investment will be a long term improvement to DHS, helping our growing student population for years to come.
3.      Does this mean 600 more kids at DHS? NO, it does not.  The projection is that in 2022, with the increasing student population in our attendance zone, DHS population will be 2,093 students.  Today there are 1,826 students.  The problem is that our capacity is only about 1,500 students.  The improvements will increase the school capacity to 2,100 students, eliminating the need for trailers, floating teachers, and addressing long-standing facility limitations.
4.      What about parking?  The open retention pond in the parking area can be buried and paved over, substantially improving the parking situation, even with more kids.  We are pushing for this to be a priority.
5.      What is the proposed variation that impacts PCMS?  The problem with all of the options presented is that they send a significant number of middle school kids out of Dunwoody.  The variation proposes that PCMS also receive an addition to handle the extra capacity there, taking the same approach as the high school.
6.      What about the budget?  Option B is $7,000,000 under budget.  Option A is $77,000,000 over budget.  Option C is $54,000,000 over budget.  The school system seems confident that they can find more money for other options but ultimately that is going to take from other things in the school system.
A summarized list of pros/cons from a Dunwoody perspective (along with room for comment) has been posted here:
Stepping back from the details of this issue for a moment, all of these options have some good aspects for Dunwoody and the impact for Dunwoody is less with any of them than what much Dekalb County Schools will see.  We are also ultimately at the hands of the final superintendent recommendation and School Board approval.  Our community will continue to make our schools great regardless of the option selected, but it is the opinion of the DHS and PCMS School Councils that the benefits of this modified Option B far outweigh those of the other options.
Please don’t forget to go back to the link at the top and complete the survey.
Chad Griffith, DHS Council Chair
On behalf of DHS Council
Allegra Johnson, PCMS Foundation Chair
On behalf of PCMS Foundation


23 responses to “Dunwoody HS & Peachtree MS – Secondary Schools Study Position

  1. Vanderlyn Parent

    I have a few questions about their conclusions. My numbers correspond to their numbers …
    1. “Option B keeps our attendance zone intact.” – Why do you say that? Option B is Split feeders in Regions 1, 2, & 3. The Region 1 split feeder is defined as 450 students from Peachtree Charter Middle School to Sequoyah Middle School. This is more than Option A. This condemns a HUGE part of Kingsley to a split feeder.
    2. “$23 Million investment” – Are you expecting to get something other than 600 classrooms?
    3. “600 more kids” – This is where I lose it. Has anybody noticed the parking problem at DHS in the mornings. Many students compete with Vanderlyn parents for parking and walk for blocks to get to the high school. Option B is 600 more students than Option A.
    4. Cover the retention pond with a parking lot and have underground drainage? How much does that cost? We can’t even get them to cut the weeds at the retention pond. Furthermore, look at the satellite view on Google Maps. We might get 100-150 parking spots out of that. We need fewer students …. PLEASE
    5. Option B is – SPLIT FEEDER FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL! – Is Kingsley OK with part of their school going to Sequoyah Middle School?

  2. Stop The Madness

    One word, PCU. They are running the show here.

  3. Option A is the only option that protects Dunwoody. Everything else destroys what works for this cluster of schools. How on earth did the high school council come to their conclusion? Imagine the traffic through neighborhoods with a 2000+ school.

  4. DeKalb Inside Out

    Option B doesn’t keep the Dunwoody attendance zone intact! The “Modified Option B” where the middle school gets $17 million from somewhere that keeps the attendance zone intact.
    Today DHS has 1,826 students. The project is 2,093 students by 2022? What? DHS will surpass 2,100 students the second the 3,000 units are completed at High Street. Parking, traffic, and the common areas that people talk about that are such a problem … I just don’t understand where that $23 million is going to make this a good idea.

  5. Read number 5 people — the request from the DHS/PCMS asks for an addition at PCMS which there is plenty of money in the budget for this.

  6. Budget as compared to A and C.

  7. Option B is significantly more preferable to Option A or C for anyone in the Kingsley and Chestnut attendance areas. In Option B, it already allows for our students to continue to feed into DHS. If Peachtree were to get an addition, which it already needs, then we can keep the 1-1 feeder for our cluster. The other benefit of Option B is that it maintains diversity in our cluster rather than potentially creating a CK2 scenario in the Doraville/Chamblee area. Under A or C, Chestnut and/or Kingsley would lose up to 200 of their Dunwoody residents – these are people who own homes in Dunwoody or rent apartments within city borders.
    Worst case scenario for B is that middle school is spent out of boundaries, but high school is back at DHS – which is what most people bought into Dunwoody for at the end of the day. A and C guarantees that Dunwoody residents leave. Period.
    Since the “bus stop talk” is out there, we may as well put it in ink… There are those that hope that those450-600 student moves would be the low performing students who “bring down” test scores, which is equated to property value. Redirect the lower performing students and see an immediate boon in test scores. Assumed result – school desirability and property value increase.
    Here is the thing though. One, that is just wrong on a human to human level. Two, our middle and high school are already successful and have continued to grow in their successes with their diverse student populations. Three, when we become a city school system, and I say when because I believe it is in our future, all of our students who attend Kingsley and Chestnut, plus 200 from Hightower will attend PCMS and DHS. If we can not, as a community, help to advocate for and meet the needs of our most challenged students – how can we expect to be taken seriously by the legislature and anyone who would come out against city school systems. Supporting A and C leads to the real potential of looking like we are pushing out the neediest areas of our city and community.
    I would like to know from Pravda exactly how anything but A destroys our community. That is a strong statement. Sorry to pick on that exactly, but it just doesn’t sound good…
    On a final note – DHS already has plans in place for these additions and the parking solution is a viable one. If we need another solution – people should consider a land swap between DHS and PCMS. DHS has the facility size to already house an expanded PCMS population and then the PCMS campus could be fully built out on the County’s dime to be a state of the art HS with the (currently missing) bells and whistles and athletic accommodations. A land swap would take DHS out of the middle of a tight neighborhood, solve all parking issues that exist even at a school that is at capacity, save money one renovations by renovating one school instead of two (which both need no matter the outcome), keeps a community together, and more.
    I am hopeful for our community that we can look at this issue though lenses that seek solutions for everyone and that we consider everyones needs and values the impact on their greatest investments – their children.
    Our choice here needs to be for A Better Dunwoody and A Better Dunwoody is not a divides Dunwoody.

  8. Paula Caldarella

    I agree 1000% with what Erika posted. She wrote exactly what I was thinking as I read the earlier comments on this thread. It brought back bad flash-backs of the 2011 redistricting effort that pitted neighbor against neighbor. Let’s not do that again….please…

  9. I think the problem with having each of the cluster “school councils” weighing in on these options are that a handful of parents, many uninformed, are making broad statements for all of the feeder schools. These letters are very NIMBY oriented and selfish, not considering the entire district.

  10. Ann, I understand what you are saying, but school councils are elected officials with powers granted to them by state law. Granted, Allegra represents the Foundation and school councils are not elected by the larger population. Nevertheless, they are the boots on the ground at local school sites.

  11. Option B does not address over-crowding in Zones 1 and 2. It is simply a shell-game, shuffling kids around, while adding just 4,950 seats, compared to the 5,644 proposed shortfall. Where do you suppose the remaining 694 kids attend school?
    From the presentation, we can assume each added seat costs $38,000 (see Option A: $247MM = 6,500 seats). Adding the 694 seats from above adds $26MM to the true cost of Option B. The true cost of Option B is is $189MM, which is also over budget. It is clear that no matter what Option is pursued, additional funds will be required.

  12. Paula, the redistricting in 2011 ended up better for just about everybody. Change always makes people nervous. That change only made our cluster stronger.

  13. DeKalb Inside Out

    Option B has 600 more students at Dunwoody High School than option A. I don’t see how that’s better for everyone. Option B doesn’t benefit anybody except those students who might get districted out of the cluster. If the middle school doesn’t get that addition and the district goes with B, the split feeder at Kingsley will kill the Kingsley community unity. I remind everyone that Option B redistricts more students out of DHS than Option A (assuming no middle school addition)

  14. Way to go Dunwoody, I see you all running those survey result tallies up, up and up by the minute!

  15. $23 Million at DHS – I’ve had a couple of short discussions with Dan Drake and Josh Williams. The $23 million would go to adding classrooms and address some common spaces. Adding classrooms and increasing the cafeteria size is easy. Adding to the other common spaces is increasingly challenging. Field space and parking will be a function of the property size and traffic is in the hands of the city. If DHS and the district has specific plans for the $23 million, please share that with us.

    I believe the district spent half a million moving Fernbank’s drainage underground. It’s been done before and would add maybe 150 parking spaces. Here’s a pic I took the other day a half mile from DHS. It’s high school students parking and elementary students with their parents parking and walking to school.
    Modified Options – I’m glad most of the positions taken by the school councils and foundations have modified options. These current options are not all or nothing. Many proposed modified options, like this one, have requested additional spending in that cluster. Whatever projects that don’t make it into the final project list from this study, I don’t anticipate will make it into SPLOST V. After this study is completed, I anticipate a majority of the SPLOST V projects will be driven by the FCA and FEAA reports.

  16. I asked these questions on Facebook. I would like to know:
    “Just trying to understand the facts.
    (1) DHS School Council wrote a letter in favor of option B. Did they survey their school specifically on this issue or have meetings sponsored by the school council to seek input?
    (2) Kingsley school council had specific meetings to get input. Good!
    (3) You said Chesnut did the same. Good!
    (4) Did Austin, DES, or Vanderlyn have any meetings sponsored by the school councils or a wide solicitation of their school community for input?
    (5) Did PCMS School Council sponsor any meetings or a wide solicitation of their school community for input?
    (6) Do we have anything official from the school councils of PCMS, Austin ES, Dunwody ES, or Vanderlyn ES? I was told some of the elected members from some of these schools attended but but chose not to vote at the “cluster council” meeting.
    (7) Were meeting minutes kept and was a vote recorded of elected school council members for this recommendation?”

  17. Paula Caldarella

    Wow, it appears the de-legitimization of the hard work done by DHS/PCMS councils is beginning. History really does repeat itself…I’m out.

  18. Paula – I just simply want to know if PCMS School Council did actually weight in. Or was it the PCMS Foundation that was speaking for the school? If there is a broad consensus of school councils, shouldn’t that stand up to the scrutiny of facts? But if the facts are that the school councils at a majority of schools haven’t weighed in, shouldn’t that be disclosed? We should want transparency, right? Just trying to understand the facts before jumping to a conclusion.

  19. DHS had a very well advertised school council meeting — there was quite a large crowd there. And most, if not all, of the elementary and middle school(s) seemed to be represented. The secretary for the council seemed to be taking minutes — as it was a regularly scheduled council meeting.

  20. I’m a bit confused. Nancy is asking about meetings of school councils and advertisements of those. Keep in mind schools were given less than 3 weeks to pull this together – at the start of the school year which is a crazy time for all families and also encompassed a holiday weekend so…I fault the district for not providing reasonable time to come together, brainstorm, get community input (in addition to parents), ask questions of the district and receive answers and regroup to build consensus. On the other hand, Stan is saying that the school councils are the boots on the ground, elected to represent the community…seems he is giving them authority to act on everyone’s behalf. These seem to be
    + polar opposites.
    I agree that getting input from a large contingency, or at least trying to, is critical. I also know not enough time was allotted to do that thoroughly. I would disagree with Stan about the council members being the boots on the ground. In many schools, council members and principals have to beg people to run and there are just enough on the ballot to fill the available spots. Our school elected people this year who have not been actively involved and know little about the day to day activities or county workings. I don’t think most school councils understand the breadth of their scope as a recommending, advising group to the local school, district, and state on a wide range of topics from budget to staff to curriculum. It would be great to see the district educate schools and councils about their responsibilities and authority.

  21. Wrong side of the tracks

    So “Dunwoody Stan” shares the Dunwoody reco but is silent on MES, CMS, and CCHS plans. Par for the course for someone who doesn’t realize his district goes beyond the Dunwoody City Limits.

  22. I have the recommendation from Cross Keys, and I’ve written part of the post. I was going to use that post to discuss how we got here in the first place … it’s taking a while. Nobody else has sent me anything.
    Huntley Hills put something together and I met with various members of leadership over there. I’m not sure if what they put together is their final recommendation.
    Various members of the Dunwoody cluster leadership have asked for my insight on numerous occasions, but have otherwise discussed and decided amongst themselves. I just reposted what what they sent out in numerous emails.
    I asked various members of leadership in the other clusters to put something together. I have no idea where they are in the process.
    I’d like to note again the effort these school councils and foundations have put forth over the last few weeks. Your recommendations are invaluable. Thank you for representing your communities.

  23. I think it will be important for us to know where the money will go when we talk about additions to an existing building. Looking at it as a teacher on the inside, I want PCMS to be able to function as a community school and have all the facilities to be able to do so.
    Discussions of the additions need to be easy to see… not just seats. We currently cannot fit an entire grade level into the cafeteria in one lunch period because we are just too big. Our gym is not big enough to have a school-wide pep rally, or be able to have a school-wide assembly.
    While having these discussions, the concept of common space is very important.