Lakeside High School (LHS) is currently squeezing 2,165 students into a building with a capacity of 1,756 students. Enrollment is expected to grow to 2,619 students (863 students over current capacity) by year 2022. The board approved constructing a 750-seat, 38-classroom, two-story addition extending the current footprint and bringing the new capacity to 2,500 seats.
The Lakeside High School (LHS) attendance zone is elongated and runs up and down the Briarcliff Rd corridor. Various residents and civic associations have caught wind of the 750 seat expansion project and are doing the research the school district should have done in the first place.
After doing some of their own research, they wrote a letter to county and school leadership voicing their concerns.
Anybody that has driven on Briarcliff Rd when it’s raining is well aware of the watershed issues in the area. As you can see from the documents, LHS is built on the edge of a flood plain. As a matter of fact, the conceptual designs relocate the softball field right on top of a stream in the middle of said floodplain.
Briarcliff Rd at Echo Lake
Lakeside High School Expansion – Concerns
We reach out to each of you because we are concerned about recent decisions made on behalf of our children and our community. We refer specifically to the administration’s recommendation and the DeKalb BOE’s affirmative vote to make physical additions to Lakeside, Dunwoody, and Chamblee Charter High Schools using SPLOST V money. We understand these plans were designed to deliver greatly needed relief from overcrowding in the areas these high schools serve and provide for projected enrollment increases. We fully appreciate the need to relieve the problems caused by the overcrowding.
However, we feel there is far more at stake than facilities. We believe the administration and the DeKalb BOE must consider longer-term options that are potentially more beneficial for our community at large and will ensure a more effective educational experience for our young people. We are speaking up now because, for the majority of our community, there is no knowledge of this significantly impactful plan. We have many concerns but we would like to highlight the most important as succinctly as possible.
• The Lakeside High School (LHS) student population has already been increased to its breaking point.
Lakeside opened in 1964 and its facilities have been enhanced and improved many times over its 53-year history. This includes a $23 million renovation and addition completed in the summer of 2012, adding a new classroom wing and performing arts building. As of 10/3/17 its enrollment is 2,165 and growing. It is still accessible only via Briarcliff Road, a heavily traveled, 2-lane, residential street. To date there are no known plans to undertake the improvements required to stabilize the watershed situation, widen Briarcliff Road and properly support any expansion to LHS. There are multiple reasons these current facilities should not be expanded. More importantly, as the neighborhoods around it continue to grow, a “quick fix” would not serve the community or our students well. Rather a 15-30-year strategic plan to accommodate expected growth and changing student and community needs is a necessity.
• Too few citizens, directly impacted by these decisions, are fully aware of what you have decided on their behalf.
The process included many confusing layers of entities claiming to be the voice of the community, i.e., PTAs, School Foundations, School Councils, the Emory-LaVista Parent Council, the Lakeside Cluster Summit, and more. Most did not provide the administration and BOE with recommendations; others could not reach consensus and some did not know meetings were being held. It is also important to note that these are all “education-focused” groups and do not include community members with no daily connection to the schools. This situation begs the question, “Who speaks for the community when so many were not included in the process, or the communication chain, at all?”
• The DeKalb County Commissioners are in unanimous disagreement with this decision.
The Commissioners have formally asked the DeKalb County School District not to expand the three high schools as described above, but rather to focus on the planned building of a much needed new high school in the Region 1 and 2 areas. The County urges the School District to consider the infrastructure impact caused by adding space for a substantial number of new students at these schools, as well as consider public infrastructure needs as it builds new schools and redevelops existing schools to increase capacity. We believe that for any expansion or building decision to be successful, effective collaboration with, and the cooperation of, the county Planning, Development, and Public Works Departments to ensure infrastructure issues are handled appropriately is essential.
• The DeKalb County School District’s vision “to inspire our community of learners to achieve educational excellence” will not be met by this decision.
The student experience has been severely neglected in this approach. Expansion forces a patchwork of buildings that precludes keeping departments together so they can work and collaborate daily. Many students, especially those riding buses, are currently late to school due to traffic on roads for which there is no planned solution. This impacts feeder schools and instruction time at all schools. With increased traffic, that problem will only worsen. More students will be forced to ride the bus to schools that are further from their homes, and they will be unable to take advantage of after school tutoring and other supportive programs. As each school grows larger, more students will be unable to participate in extracurricular activities due to a limited number of spaces within athletic teams, drama programs, music programs, etc. Further, the expansion plan does not include increasing the common spaces by the same percentage as the student population, i.e., locker rooms, physical education space, cafeteria capacity, etc. If we do not include these factors, which both drive and support an enriched educational experience, the current expansion decision most certainly will inhibit student learning and growth.
• Neglected watershed, fragile ecosystem, and flooding can no longer be ignored.
We speak to this issue because flooding within the Echo Lake Sub Basin directly impacts student and public safety. Lakeside High School sits within the Echo Lake Sub Basin, a fragile watershed that has been neglected for over 40 years. Stream bank erosion and deposition of sediment into creeks, ponds, lakes and culverts have rendered the storm water management system inadequate and untenable.
In February 1976, the Echo Lake Branch Sub-Basin Study, focusing specifically on the 2.5 square-mile area surrounding LHS, clearly recommended what needed to be done to support the natural and man-made infrastructure of this area. Regardless of what may/may not have been done as a result of this study, a new Dewberry Study issued in July 2017 cites the exact same issues and needed corrections 40 years later. It appears that none of this was taken into consideration for the 2011-12 expansion, nor for the current decision to expand LHS again. Increased traffic and projected growth will result in continued damage to this delicate ecosystem and poses a risk to student and public safety. Until the storm water management system throughout the Echo Lake Sub Basin is addressed, there should be no development upstream, including Lakeside High School.
We are sincere in our efforts to support the BOE, DeKalb County and our high schools. Given the overcrowded situation, we seek the best proactive, long-term options available to positively impact the academic achievement of our young people. We are asking that the BOE do the following right now:
1. Place all currently planned actions on hold in order to listen to our community’s concerns.
2. Provide the opportunity for all stakeholders impacted by this decision to fully understand what has been decided and why. This requires transparency through well planned and well publicized town hall meetings that will provide us the opportunity to speak and listen directly to the experts about these concerns.
3. Prepare now to reopen discussion on the current decisions with the goal to adopt long-term solutions that will ensure the education our students deserve as well as protect the physical environment.
4. Respond to this letter providing concrete suggestions as to how we proceed to collaborate on these issues within 30 days.
We stand ready to take on much of the work required to get people out to learn from our BOE officials, the DCSD administration, and other experts who best understand the issues. Further, the school district’s own enrollment projections show that these schools will be at capacity when these expansions are complete and to our knowledge, there is no identified plan for additional growth. This fact heightens our assessment that this is the right time to stop and ensure longer-term solutions are considered so that our students will be inspired and able to achieve your vision of educational excellence.
Barbara Arne Debbie Miller
Stephanie Stevenson (Grand Prix Drive), Kenneth Lippe (Starfire Drive NE), Angela Maki (NBCA), Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. (Amberwood Association), Vijay Varma (Kirkland Drive), Gregory George (Starfire Drive NE)
Enc: LHS Proposed Expansion Map, 1976 Jordan Engineering Study, 2017 Dewberry study, Flooding Image, North Briarcliff Civic Association Fall 2017 Newsletter
Addressed to DeKalb County School District Leadership:
Dr. R. Stephen Green, Superintendent,
Dr. Melvin Johnson, District 6, Board Chair
Dr. Michael A. Erwin, District 3, Vice Chair
Mr. Stan O. Jester, District 1
Mr. Marshall D. Orson, District 2
Mr. James L. ‘Jim’ McMahan, District 4
Mrs. Vickie B. Turner, District 5
Dr. Joyce Morley, District 7
DeKalb County CEO
Michael L. Thurmond, Chief Executive Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
DeKalb County School District
Joshua Williams, Chief Operations Officer, email@example.com
Richard Boyd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Drake, Executive Director Operations, Daniel_Drake@dekalbschoolsga.org
Trent Arnold, Area 2 Superintendent, email@example.com
DCSD SPLOST Citizens Oversight Committee
Randy David, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Redovian, email@example.com
Lakeside High School
Damian Bounds, Principal, Damian_Bounds@dekalbschoolsga.org
Mike SanFratello, School Council Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lakeside High School Cluster Summit, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
DeKalb County Commissioners
Nancy Jester, District 1, email@example.com
Jeff Rader, District 2, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Johnson, District 3, email@example.com
Steve Bradshaw, District 4 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mereda Davis Johnson, District 5, email@example.com
Kathy Gannon, District 6, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregory Adams, District 7, email@example.com
DeKalb County Planning, Development and Public Works
Ted Rhinehart firstname.lastname@example.org
Luz Borrero, email@example.com
Andrew Baker, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Adams, email@example.com
Peggy Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathaniel Chisholm, NChish@dekalbcountyga.gov
Dave Pelton, email@example.com