City Building Permits For The School District

Many jurisdictions in Metro Atlanta seem to clearly know they are in charge of compliance with their local codes and vigorously perform that task. I’m not sure why others shirk that responsibility.

Georgia Department of Education (GA DOE) Guideline for Educational Facility Construction 160-5-4-.16(a) says, “Temporary educational facilities must meet all applicable state and local building codes and must have a separate certificate of occupancy for each building.”
Atlanta Public Schools has a document, “APS Design Guidelines v2.10 A Planning Guide for Construction and Renovation of School Facilities“, dealing with school construction. Appendix B is “City of Atlanta, Building Permitting Procedures and Guidelines for Educational Facilities.” This document discusses how to be compliant with the City’s local building codes.  Atlanta Public Schools states that “The Architect should allow at least 3 months from the time that the final drawings are submitted for review to the issuance of the permit. A preliminary review by a Plan Reviewer is a necessity to ensure that the process will run smoothly and that all code requirements have been addressed.”
DeKalb County
DeKalb County also issues permits to DeKalb schools for facilities in the unincorporated area.
Decatur certainly enforces local building codes.  In Decatur, the school system must go before the City Council to even place a trailer on school property. Earlier this month, the Decatur School District went to the their council to REQUEST PERMISSION to add trailers to one of their schools inside the city limits of Decatur. Before the City of Decatur would approve the trailers, they wanted to know:

  • Whether the proposed use is suitable in view of the use and development of adjacent and nearby property.
  • Whether the proposed use adversely affects the existing use or usability of adjacent or nearby property.
  • Whether the proposed use results in a use which will or could cause an excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities or other public facilities.
  • Whether there is adequate ingress and egress to the subject property, including evaluation of the traffic impact of the proposed use relative to street capacity and safety of public streets and nearby pedestrian uses.
  • Whether there are other existing or changing conditions which, because of their impact on the public health, safety, morality and general welfare of the community, give supporting grounds for either approval or disapproval of the proposed use.

Until just recently, Dunwoody hasn’t performed inspections or issued Certificates of Occupancy for DeKalb Schools in years. I asked DeKalb Schools Chief Operating Office Joshua Williams to help me understand how things are going to work in Dunwoody.

Joshua Williams
DeKalb Schools, Chief Operating Officer

“Under a new arrangement (via a Memorandum of Understanding), the City of Dunwoody will still be responsible for issuing land disturbance permits, building permits, and the certificates of occupancy.
The DeKalb County School District will hire a third-party professionally certified engineering and inspection firm to perform the building plan reviews and inspections which were previously conducted by the City of Dunwoody.”
–Joshua Williams

The City of Dunwoody has taken a hands-off approach when dealing with building permits and facilities code compliance with the school district. After it was exposed that school facilities were missing Certificates of Occupancy, the City and the School District started to discuss how to address this problem. Out of those discussions, the City approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Dunwoody and the DeKalb Board of Education. I believe the superintendent signed this MOU without notifying the board. I’m seeking clarity on that part.
Furthermore, I’m not sure why the City and school district need an MOU when other jurisdictions seem to clearly know they are in charge of compliance with their local codes and vigorously perform that task.

9 responses to “City Building Permits For The School District

  1. Tim DeBardelaben

    For years DCSD was one of the biggest slumlords in the county. They are doing a better job at keeping grass cut at empty buildings but they are still not keeping their buildings up to code. I have been complaining for almost a year about tree limbs hanging down over a public sidewalk with no results. People been complaining for well over over a month about graffiti on the the old Briarcliff building. Please do not tell me to get in touch with Dekalb Code Enforcement because I have and it does no good. Do not understand why DCSD does not care or wants improve that community. I just ask that you do not act surprised to know DCSD thinks they are above the law.

  2. One of the original DSW’s last investigative posts was on the subject of creating blight with shuttered, graffiti-covered schools. Read about it — click through our photos — a few of these have been turned over to charter schools or sold to developers but many of these horrific eye sores still stand over 5 years later — causing blight to the area – for example, the Druid Hills/old Briarcliff HS site.
    Saturday, January 28, 2012
    Show and Tell: A mess of shuttered vacant DCSS buildings litter the DeKalb landscape

  3. Tim DeBardelaben

    The saddest part of the fact that DCSD abandoned the Briarcliff community is the fact that they’re now more than 12 private schools that are filling the void left by DCSD. These students no longer count according to far as students. Don’t count them and you do not have to spend money on them. This puts a financial strain on the parents. Plus DCSD loses some of the brightest students in the county. Why is it so hard for DCSD to keep Briarcliff up to code? Why is DCSD willing to spend almost a million dollars to tear it down when they really have no plans for the property? If they are going to sell it off like Marshall Orson wants why spend the money to tear it down. I know somebody has convinced the BOE that the building is to old. Does that mean Lakeside will need to be torn down in 8 years? That is difference is age or Cross Keys should be torn down now since it is same age. Guess Briar Vista and Sagamore Hills need to go also.DCSD has no clue on how to use the assets they already own. Just throw more money and hope since praying is not allowed in schools anymore…

  4. Does the city of Chamblee have any means to stop the monstrosity that is going to be built on the CCHS campus?

  5. Stan Jester

    I’m not a lawyer, but I see that the City of Decatur wouldn’t permit a trailer until a whole host of concerns were addressed. The concerns listed in the agenda item were a small part of the concerns from the actual discussions … which included but was not limited to parking, traffic, and the affects on nearby properties. I don’t know if it is under land disturbance or local codes, but the City of Decatur is the building authority there.
    I hope the various cities don’t surrender their authority and shirk their responsibilities of watching after their citizens and keeping their children safe. Talk to your city councilman about any concerns you might have.

  6. i dont get it

    If anything from a minor to major incident happened in a DCSS trailer within the city of Dunwoody, does anyone doubt DCSS would argue the city is responsible because it did not inspect, enforce code and issue certificates of occupancy? Guess the city council and mayor are not concerned about exposing city and themselves to liability but why?

  7. Those trailers are not secure in the least. With the way things are today, you just never know what could happen. Teachers and students are very vulnerable in a trailer – to storms, to events, to terrorists, to abduction on the way to the restroom, to angry parents… in fact, I once chatted with a teacher who had to hold parent conferences in the trailer at a middle school. This teacher was threatened by parents several times when informing them that their child was failing. Very unnerving for this teacher.

  8. Tim DeBardelaben

    How many millions are being spent on artificial turf for all practice fields compared to making our students more secure? This day and age security should be more important.

  9. Survey Says

    Stan, has there been any investigation into whether the cities of Chamblee, Brookhaven and Doraville have followed their codes and properly issued Certificates of Occupancy for the many trailers that dot school properties in those cities? That would certainly be an interesting compare/contrast to what’s not been happening in Dunwoody.