Old Austin Elementary School – Need Input

What is the plan for the Old Austin Elementary School?

The New Austin Elementary School (AES) is on schedule to open January 2020.

The Old Austin Elementary School was part of the land swap and is owned by the City of Dunwoody. In anticipation of the new site opening, the old AES site has been neglected and is on its last leg.

The old AES was designated “unsuitable” I suspect for the following reasons:

  • Couldn’t find a swing place for the students while a new school was being build.
  • Administration insisted on building an elementary school with a capacity of 900 and the current site was small.
  • Utility hazards
  • Needs major renovations

Enrollment/Capcity
On the day the New AES opens, the Dunwoody Cluster will still have over 500 students across the cluster in trailers. Dunwoody High School has a capacity of 1,500 students, currently has 2,100 students and is expected to have 2,300+ students by 2021.

Dunwoody High School
Enrollment: 2,095
Capacity: 1,509

Peachtree Charter Middle School
Enrollment: 1,589
Capacity: 1,213

Dunwoody 7-Year Enrollment Forecasts
January 3, 2019 – DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has updated the long-term enrollment forecasts for each school year from the Fall of 2019 through the Fall of 2025. Even with these conservative estimates, Dunwoody HS (DHS) enrollment is expected to exceed 2,300 by 2021.

Options – Using Old AES
DeKalb Schools is looking at options to alleviate trailers in the Dunwoody Cluster. The administration is currently looking into using Old AES to that end. The following list is not comprehensive and just some thoughts that are on the table. I don’t believe any of these options are permanent. But, as the saying goes, there is nothing so permanent as a temporary solution.

Option 1 – Use Old AES as a K-5 thereby alleviating trailers for elementary schools in the cluster.

Option 2 – Use Old AES as a K-6, make PCMS 7-9 and DHS 10-12. This would alleviate the overcrowding at the high school.

Option 3 – Use Old AES as a 6th grade academy. Not sure how viable that is … but it was thrown out there.

QUESTION
I’m starting to get emails and would like to have a community discussion.

  • Please let me know if you have students and in what school(s).
  • What are your thoughts about using the Old AES?
  • What is your suggestion for addressing the 500+ elementary students that will still be in trailers once the New Austin ES opens?

Related Posts

Delay in New Austin ES Opening
Aug 24, 2018 – The DeKalb Schools Operations Division was informed last week that we are experiencing a delay in the opening of the new Austin ES. This has shifted the opening of the school from August 2019 (start of the first semester of 2019-2020 SY) to January 2020 (start of the second semester of 2019-2020 SY).

Peachtree Middle School Ball Fields

Austin Rebuild – Approved by BOE
October 5, 2016 – On Monday, the DeKalb Schools Board unanimously approved an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for the purchase, sale and exchange of land with the City of Dunwoody. After everything is said and done, DeKalb Schools will pay the City of Dunwoody $3.6 million.

86 responses to “Old Austin Elementary School – Need Input

  1. We have to relieve our overcrowded schools. Option 2 sounds like the best options for taking some pressure off the middle and high schools, which are projected to get worse. Addition information is needed as to how many students over capacity the elementary, middle and high schools are to make an informed decision.

  2. Dunwoody High School
    Enrollment: 2,095
    Capacity: 1,509

    Peachtree Charter Middle School
    Enrollment: 1,589
    Capacity: 1,213

    Dunwoody 7-Year Enrollment Forecasts
    January 3, 2019 – DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has updated the long-term enrollment forecasts for each school year from the Fall of 2019 through the Fall of 2025. Even with these conservative estimates, Dunwoody HS (DHS) enrollment is expected to exceed 2,300 by 2021.

  3. The old AES has a rat problem as well as a sewage backup problem. There are not doors on the classrooms or closets in the classroom. It is disgusting and needs to be mowed over as soon as possible. Dunwoody also needs this space as a park and recreation space as promised. Dekalb can redistrict to alleviate Dunwoody- there are many empty seats throughout dekalb that can accommodate.

  4. My question would be… how much investment would be made in the Old AES to make it suitable for students? Would the land be bought back from Dunwoody? What about that land that sits where the old Chamblee Middle School existed?

    Also, is making PCMS 7-9 even a possibility? That model goes back to the Jr. High days as opposed to a middle school. How much flexibility is there?

    As a long time middle school teacher, I think a 6th-grade academy would be a fantastic idea. There is a huge gap in development between 6th graders and 8th graders. I would love to see the 11-year-olds have time to still be kids without peer pressure from above.

    Once again, any facility would need to be updated to be suitable, whether it be for another elementary level or a middle school.

  5. @Intrigued,
    I’m not sure what renovations are needed to extend the life of the old AES. I’m guessing those are some of the calculations going on right now. The school district can’t afford to purchase the land back from the city. The old Chamblee MS site is too small for any kind of school. I’ve always thought it would be good for offsite field space.

    Is the Junior High model even viable? I don’t know. These are obviously quite preliminary discussions.

    6th Grade Academy – I like the idea of a 6th grade academy. One of the hurdles is the expense of transportation. Getting transportation for every 6th grade student to that site will be expensive.

  6. This is yet another attempt by the low life criminal play-callers in Stone Mountain to “put the screws” to those who selected this location for its excellent education. We didn’t vote – FIGHT – to have a brand new school only to watch it filled by people from 5 or 10 miles away.
    If it has to (if Dunwoody sells this back to Dekalb Schools), I will lead a legal battle to remove every single person responsible.
    I’d rather invest in turning this idea upside down than sending my kids to private school.
    Period.

  7. @Josh, I’d say right now this is a choice between trailers and an old/worn down elementary school. Outside of AES, in the Dunwoody Cluster we are still going to have 500+ children in trailers. Planning to this point has been atrocious, but we are where we are. What do you suggest we do with those 500+ students until we can get them into a proper elementary school?

  8. My guess would be that we could offset those expenses by hauling away all of the portables, giving them heat, air, electricity, and internet connectivity?

    If we are talking about a 6th-grade academy that would be from the current cluster, I would think it would be doable. In the meantime, it would guarantee the safety of all of the kids who have to leave any of our buildings in order to attend a class in a portable.

    Why would the Chamblee site be too small? If we were truly thinking a 6th-grade academy, wouldn’t that be approximately 600 kids? Of course, no track, no real sports facilities… tiny little gym. Lots of little things to consider. Same considerations would have to be made for the Old AES site.

  9. Dwoody Taxpayers

    This is a classic bait & switch. Scrape that nasty old building and make a park as promised to the tax payers. The thought of doing otherwise is absurd.

  10. @DWoody Taxpayers, The school district is approaching the city with this plan.

  11. Our family moved to Dunwoody specifically to be zoned for the new Austin Elementary. When I saw the old one I was dismayed by its condition. I’m not originally from this area so it was a shock…I truly can’t believe anyone with two eyes would allow students in a basically condemned building, it’s beyond sad and frankly embarrassing. So you ask what are our thoughts on using old AES…is that a joke? The county shouldn’t even be considering this, it’s a disgrace!

    -There is always population growth, especially in the surrounding area of a city like Atlanta, that is a plain fact of life. Why didn’t Dekalb County plan for the new AES to accommodate anticipated growth? Why are there still going to be 500+ students in trailers?
    -Why won’t Dekalb county consider building and opening new, necessary schools? (Don’t respond with “where would we build” or “with what money” – if this county was truly dedicated to quality education standards and the betterment of its youth, or frankly just keeping up with the rest of society, it would figure it out.)

    Suggestion for the 500+ students in trailers: redistrict throughout Dekalb county and rezone some of the students to other areas. Do not solely affect (and in essence penalize) those of us who have patiently awaited the opening of the new AES.

  12. Tricked Again By Politicians

    Well said Lauren. This is completely ridiculous!

  13. I like the idea of a 6th grade academy (if the school is brought up to code, conditions are rectified etc). Could the middle school bus still pick up, but drop off at old austin first and then deliver the rest to pcms? A 15-20 minute difference in start/end time?

  14. For the record,
    Current Austin campus = 9.84 acres
    New Austin campus = 10.23 acres

    Old Chamblee Middle site/Shallowford ES site = 9.14 acres

    (https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/operations/planning/ and click Maps, then Facilities).

    DCSD projections for 6th graders in the Dunwoody cluster is less than 550 students through the year 2021.
    (page 60 of http://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/applications/operations/planning/forecast/dcsd-enrollment-forecast-graphs.pdf)

  15. I think the discussion isn’t about redistricting countywide, it would be working within the cluster to see if we could alleviate the overcrowding that currently exists. Whether or not we want to admit it, all 5 of our schools feed into the same middle school and the same high school. What we do for each other will positively affect the cluster. There are currently trailers all over the elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school. Many in Austin didn’t want the new school to be built to 900, because they didn’t want to accommodate outside of the current attendance zone, even though the closest schools feeding in would be Vanderlyn and Dunwoody Elementary. We need to think about the bigger picture of Dunwoody, as opposed to one elementary school.

  16. @Lauren,
    That’s a fair point to consider … everybody currently districted to AES should go to the New AES.

    How did we get here? That’s a long story … for another post. The short story is E-SPLOST was used to try to address some of the problems of South DeKalb. I dubbed E-SPLOST IV, “If you build it they will come” SPLOST. DeKalb Schools was hoping that if they built a bunch of beautiful new schools down there, people would flock to South DeKalb. Perfectly good schools at 40% capacity were replaced with new schools … for example.

  17. Despina Lamas

    Stan, I am concerned with your last statement with Lauren. “Everybody currently districted to AES should go to the New AES.” Why? NO ONE should be going to the old AES. It’s not good enough of a facility for ANYONE. In 2011, it “won” the award for the worst elementary facility in the region….and its only gotten worse from there. I don’t want to see Austin kids in that school. I don’t want to see Vanderlyn kids in that school. I don’t want to see DES kids in that school. NO ONE. And let’s not forget the “deal” that was made with the city back in 2016. We lost a 10 acre park up here to build the new Austin. The residents were okay with losing a park “temporarily” (for two years) for the greater good of the community. But to lose it forever? Come on. This is ridiculous.

    500 kids overcrowded in the cluster? Build an elementary school on the current 9 acre site THAT THE DISTRICT ALREADY OWNS. Get creative. Buy some land around it. It’s been sitting there forever just vacant. You can’t tell me in the past 25 years none of the commercial properties or houses that border it have gone up for sale? Why didn’t DCSD slowly buy property around that site so a new school could be built? Where’s the vision? I know a new school is a pipe dream. But this is what we need! Permanent solutions.

    As for the 500 extra seats? Kingsley is under capacity with 415 students and Chestnut is under capacity with 420 students. When the redistricting conversations happen this fall, both of those schools need to have boundary lines drawn so they get to join the “over capacity club” where AES, DES and Vanderlyn are VIP members.

  18. Concerned Curiosity

    When did DeKalb make this appeal to the City? What is the timeline for the City responding to DeKalb? When and where are public meetings scheduled to discuss this? Ultimately who are the decision makers and when will the decision take place?
    Also what public transportation studies are being referenced as points of information in considering using the old AES land as an additional school? Can you share links? Peak hour traffic is already dismal in that area.
    Looking for ways to ensure that as a taxpayer and a parent I have an opportunity to voice my interest in the most productive and timely way. Thanks.

  19. The whole rationale for a new Austin Elementary was based on the existing structure being in unsatisfactory condition for continued use. Why the new building was located at another site is really beside the point now – the fact of the matter is that the current building was deemed to be in poor enough condition to require an entirely new facility – and that determination was made the better part of a decade ago.

  20. @Stan
    Thank you for your reply.
    Please consider discussing the reallocation of students in underutilized schools such as in central and south Dekalb to help alleviate the overcrowding here. The old AES is an embarrassment to Dekalb county and the city of Dunwoody and I can’t imagine any child having to attend that school in the future.
    Those of us who strategically placed ourselves in the right location to be going to the new AES should not have to suffer for poor decisions previously made by Dekalb county officials (ie scrapping perfectly good schools at 40% capacity for new ones).
    I really hope DCSD and the City of Dunwoody can arrive at the correct decision.

  21. It’s curious that Chesnut is under capacity, yet it has trailers.

    Is it possible that the DCSD capacity formula is incorrect?

    In 2016, DCSD reported that the capacity of the new CCHS building was 1810 students. But now the capacity is listed as 1723 students.

    Go figure. Maybe this was done to correct a mistake. Maybe this just shows that “capacity” is a flexible number.

  22. Callen Henretty

    My children go to ‘old’ Austin (K & 2nd). When I saw this ‘proposal’ from a neighbor, I honestly thought it was a joke. The school is falling apart. And we have all seen how well DCSD is at ‘planning’, so we can all agree that any ‘temporary’ solution would be the ONLY solution in our children’s educational lifetime. The ONLY viable option for using the ‘old’ Austin site is putting a brand new building on the site. Which wasn’t a very viable option years ago because of the lot size. Building a smaller school on the site would still cause more traffic congestion on Robert’s drive/Dunwoody Village. Even today, a major accident on Ga-400 pretty much means your children will be tardy if you drive carpool to Austin.

    We chose this specific area 7 years ago solely because of the ‘new’ Austin. My kids were babies then and I never imagined they would still be at ‘old’ Austin at this point. I am on the PTO and school tours committee. Any Dunwoody or DeKalb official who even thinks using the ‘old’ Austin in ANY capacity is a good idea should come to a tour. Literally the only positive thing I can say about our school building during the tour is that we won’t be here by the end of next year.

  23. @Despina & @Lauren – completely agree with all comments above. NO ONE should have to go to ‘old’ Austin in its current state. We need to look at the district as a whole and our Dunwoody cluster. Why are other elementary schools under capacity in our cluster? And remember that any K-5 solution is still not going to address the middle and high school overcrowding. DCSD and Dunwoody need to work together to come up with a LONG TERM overall plan and stop band-aiding the problem. It took over a decade to get ‘new’ Austin (which is RIDICULOUS), so now we are over capacity before the school is even finished. With that type of ‘planning’, we will never dig ourselves out of this hole they have created.

    And I can honestly say if given the (‘temporary’) choice, I would much rather have my children in trailers at another facility than at ‘old’ Austin.

  24. @Callen, what about Old AES in a renovated state? What’s The lesser of two evils?

  25. OLD AES doesn't solve overcrowding

    @Stan Jester

    I fully support @Callen, @Despina, and @Lauren’s Comments.

    The school is unfit and we’ve all been putting up with it for far too long. No one wants to publicize just how bad the conditions are because it would embarrass so many, but I’m sure someone will as this discussion continues.

    Sprill had an inspection report done on Austin when they were thinking about it. They decided against it. Maybe we should look at that report.

    Regardless of a complete rebuild – the schools would be too close together, compounding the already massive traffic issue on Roberts / Chamblee Dunwoody.

  26. Michelle Fincher

    In the near term, we need system-wide redistricting. Long term, we need to build new elementary, middle and high schools in the perimeter area. If you drive outside of the Dunwoody residential bubble you will see new housing developments popping up everywhere in North DeKalb. Another coming online soon will be at the corner of Tilly Mill and Peachtree Industrial (where Wellpet Humane is located). Not too far from there, Carver Hills is presently being built.
    Those advocating for redistricting NEED to write the entire school board, along with Dan Drake and Sherry Johnson and let your thoughts be known. They feel like the band-aid fixes are what Dunwoody wants due to a small group having their ear and purporting to speak for the cluster. We can’t keep doing this to our students for fear of redistricting.

  27. Adrienne Duncan

    @ Despina and everyone reading this.
    Speaking as a Chesnut parent – the numbers are deceiving. On someone’s paper, Chesnut is “under capacity”. However, all of the 4th and 5th grades are in trailers. So, no – Chesnut is not “under capacity” and should not be Plan A for “500 more kids”. Chesnut can’t be rebuilt even on its own property because there’s no place to put the current students during construction.
    I’m not going to speak to what’s happening at other schools because I’m not at other schools. Please do Chesnut the same courtesy.

    And where did Stan say in his earlier comment that anyone should go to “old AES”? I read that to mean that AES kids should not be redistricted out of AES once the building is open.

    I’m upset too, folks, but is it unreasonable not to attack the one ally we have on DCSS?

  28. Alexandra McDaniel

    My family also moved here with the understanding that my daughter would be at the new elementary school, not the old (she did not make it into the pre-k lottery for the next school year but will be at Austin for Kindergarten). If the old location was not good enough for students so much that a new school was built, then NO CHILD should be there ever. Renovating the old AES will not change the fact that there’s so little parking, traffic is terrible and it is too close to a busy street. Nor would it rectify the green space that was promised on that site for residents of the city. If there’s enough money to do an overhaul of the old AES perhaps that money would be better put towards a better solution. I think that a council of interested and affected citizens and parents willing to volunteer should be put together to tour schools relating to this proposal and the problem of overcrowding so that they can understand the full scope of the problem from the groumd up and work with the district to come up with creative solutions that will positively impact our kids. Temporary solutions will only cause problems dowm the road. I’d rather work to come up with lasting solutions where everyone who has a stake can get behind and support them because they helped form the solutions in the first place.

  29. A new elementary school in Dunwoody is obviously the best solution. The school district would need to find and purchase at least 10 acres which would cost at least $10-$15 million just for the land. We budgeted $30 million for the elementary schools going up now in Doraville and Brookhaven.

  30. I am against reusing the current Austin School building as another school. This school has been left to rot for years. The parents have been told for years to not complain because we are getting a new school. On a regular basis all the toilets don’t flush, water leaks in to the school, and there are pest outbreaks, such as insect swarms, and a rat and snake infestation. Our children and the wonderful Austin teachers and staff are being expected to spend their days and years in conditions that we would not accept for any length of time in our homes or work places. DCSD needs to insist on proper funding for enough habitable schools for children and staff. The solution is not to put more children in a building that should have been either demolished, or properly maintained years ago. This building is extremely out of date from a safety perspective as well. When they do intruder drills, children are told to hide next to bookshelves and along the walls, which is no hiding place at all, because the classrooms do not have doors, nor even a fourth wall. The traffic created by 2 schools next to each other on Roberts drive would be horrendous. Finally, Dunwoody is already very low on parks and green space. When the agreement was made to put the new school on the former Dunwoody Park/ baseball fields we were told that the old Austin site would be turned in to a park to replace the park lost in the building of the new school. I encourage you to go look at the school for yourself and ask the parents children and staff about the condition it is in. Austin has a wonderful reputation as a successful school due to dedicated teachers and staff, hard working students, and an involved community. The building where all that hard work happens should correlate with what is going on inside of it. As a community we need to take care of our children and make the best possible choices for them.

  31. @HeatherS, Yeah, Old AES is on its last leg. The question is … should we have 2 grades of students in trailers at Vanderlyn (per se) or get rid of those Vanderlyn trailers and put them in the old AES? Obviously 4th and 5th grade at Vanderlyn wouldn’t go to the old AES … I’m just giving you a visualization of Trailers vs Old AES.

    Maybe nice quads are better than what’s left at Old AES.

  32. Tired of the same conversation

    Stan, what about using land we already own? Is there a possibility that we don’t have to wait for SPLOST VI to find out if we can be allocated the funds to build a 6th elementary school? If the Kingsley property has the land and is in need of improvements, could a 900 student school be built in that site? Right now Kingsley is at 400ish kids. If that school became 900, that would relieve the overcrowding in Dunwoody. Best of all, that’s a permanent solution.

  33. @Tired,
    We are %20 over budget with E-SPLOST V funds already. We are already going to have to prioritize and cut 20% of the projects. Quite a few major projects are already on hold.

    Hightower is over in Doraville and is 300 seats over capacity. Cary Reynolds ES is in Doraville too and is in much worse shape than Chesnut. Cary Reynolds needs a rebuild or major renovation to update and expand to 900.

    The old Shallowford ES site is 9.14 acres. That’s a small site in a bad location and would need $20 million to put a building on it.

  34. The lack of walls was something I forgot.

    Since Dunwoody PD can’t even enforce illegal turns or speeding motorists, students are totally screwed if there is a real threat (unlike the hoaxes that the amateurs at DPD and DSPS can’t trace).

    So maybe that’s the answer – do we want our school to be a firing range for a deranged attacker?
    Airports from 1960 aren’t acceptable. Neither are schools like O-AES.

  35. @AngryBirds. Would you say students are safer in the Old AES or in trailers?

  36. @Stan: we are 20% over budget for SPLOST IV??? Does that mean all the SPLOST V projects will be cut by 20% to cover unfinished SPLOST IV projects?

  37. @AB, I meant E-SPLOST V … we are 20% over budget on E-SPLOST V. The board and administration will have to get together soon to discuss priorities … some items on the E-SPLOST V project list are not going to get done.

  38. Fellow voting Dunwoody residents, at the end of the day the access to the old AES it 100% up to the city of Dunwoody. It owns the land and is under zero obligation to lease back or sell the land to DCSD. Please write to ALL city council members and let them know that the old AES is in no condition to be inhabited by students past December 2019. Contact info: http://dunwoodyga.gov/index.php?section=government_mayor_and_city_council

    It would cost millions in renovations and why would DCSD spend that money on something they don’t own, and will eventually be torn down? This is an election year for 3 council members and mayor. Terry Nall is running for mayor and his response to my email, although quick, was very noncommittal. We have very diluted power on the school board, but the city holds the key here.

    Stan, I am disappointed you are not pushing harder for a county wide redistricting that would solve SO many issues and is by far the least expensive option. Please help all of us understand why this is not listed as possible options above?? What are the barriers to getting this done?

  39. Kelli D, All options are on the table. I just listed the possible ways to use the Old AES.

  40. If I do have to choose, as Stan has been asking, I say trailers. But there is zero joy in that answer. It’s sad and I’m angry. The fact that we are being asked to choose between a broken down building and trailers is pathetic. I’m sorry. It’s disgusting. There is simply no reason for it. This is not Stan Jester’s fault as he appears to be our only ally. Old Austin is done as a building. We as a community have a voice in this. Do not use it as a school. Do not take the money for an empty promise from DCSD.

    The only way to insure that your child goes to a certain school, is to send your child to private school. This is a COMMUNITY. Any one of our children would be blessed and would do well in any of the 5 Dunwoody area elementary schools. As we all feed into the same MS and HS, this is a global community problem. Being short-sighted in that regard or pitting us (the varying elementary schools) against each other is doing a disservice to what all of our end goals are: a better educational environment for our children AND using our allies and resources available to achieve that.

    DCSD needs another elementary, middle AND high school in the Perimeter/PIB corridor. There is growth that is obvious in these areas. There are schools that are obviously missing when you look at a map. It appears clear that they do not want to make hard choices.

    The City simply MUST take a stand against DCSD. This is their job. Do it or vote them out. This is an election year and one of the councilpersons who has been around during the creation of this mess is running for mayor. Choose wisely when you consider that you are not happy with your current situation. I cannot think of another issue that matters more to me that my children.

    Lastly, speak up. Talk to your neighbors about how you feel. Message your councilpersons/elected and appointed officials. Show up to meetings. Get involved.

  41. @Stan: thanks for clarifying. Can you give an update on the funds for SPLOST IV given those projects are still being done? Will the revenues received for SPLOST IV cover the SPLOST IV projects left to complete?

  42. I’m not sure I understand exactly why the old Shallowford site can’t accomodate a new building. You say it’s a small site in a bad location. I guess…not sure it’s any worse than the new or old Austin locations on Roberts. But at 9.14 acres, it’s less than an acre short of the 10 you say is ideal for a new school. I know the district likes to build schools to a template, and have new buildings at a certain capacity, but beggars can’t be choosers here. If a smaller school can be built at the Shallowford site, do it. If it takes $20 million to put a building there, at least you’ve saved the $10 – 15 million you indicate would be required just to acquire new property.

  43. @Stan Jester
    I’m curious to know when, in this thought process of yours, do you ever consider the teachers? These are the very people who are committed to teaching your children and committed to the well-being of each of them! You happen to have a cluster, which you represent, with some amazing teachers and administrators, who happen to work together frequently for the greater good of the Dunwoody cluster! Your comments seem more like threats…”trailers or old AES” as if those were the ONLY options! Do you have the courage to tell the teachers face-to-face that these are their ONLY options? or that you are not willing to fight for any other options?! It is so hard, in today’s climate, for teachers to want stay in their professions (with the consistently added pressures of more and more testing and credible threats to the schools – just to name a few frustrations)! And they are such a vital part of this equation! Why can’t DeKalb get it’s act together so we can attract top-notch administrators and teachers, and keep the ones we have?

  44. @Leah M – the second half of your comment is spot on. This has gone on for too long and it’s high time we put a stop to it or at least try. I feel like we the voters in the city of Dunwoody need to spread this message as loudly and clearly as possible, because you are right – there is not another issue that matters more to me than my child and others’ children.

  45. Despina Lamas

    The City of Dunwoody can’t control what the DCSD does as far as redistricting and building schools. They City Council can share their opinions with them and engage in a dialogue, but not much more. They do have the opportunity to influence DCSD, but so do all of us. The responsibility about schools isn’t on their shoulders, it’s on OURS.

    The City does have control of the old Austin property because they OWN the property. DCSD is renting it as a swing space until the new Austin is complete. So in this situation, it’s important that the City of Dunwoody understands how its constituents feel. NO MORE KIDS IN THAT BUILDING. None.

  46. I think the general consensus is to redistrict where possible, use nice quad trailers sparingly across the cluster and build appropriate schools to accommodate the student population.

  47. Despina Lamas

    Stan, Hallelujah! Thank you for listening to our feedback. I hope you’re able to effectively share our sentiments with the other members of the DCSD School Board and persuade them to stop pursuing this idea. The Austin Community appreciates you bringing this topic to light with a greater audience via your blog.

  48. Hello Despina. I’m pretty sure the rest of the board isn’t aware of this even being considered. This was an exploratory exercise … I’ll let everybody know if it actually becomes a real option.

  49. @Stan – yes, redistricting and trailers are going to be the best use of funds. Thank you for hearing us loud and clear.

  50. Stan,

    You stated the old AES was deemed “unsuitable” and listed four possible reasons. I want to point out that the fourth reason, needing major renovations is your opinion and not supported by the 2015 FCA or FEAA. The old AES received scores higher than other schools in the district which will continue to be used and not get major renovations.

  51. Kirk, I’m sure you are aware of the relative value of the FCA reports. Over the last year or so, the district has really let the property go.

  52. Stan,

    Oh, I know the work done by Parsons is shoddy at best, and fictitious in many cases. However, stakeholders, including the BOE were assured of their accuracy despite all evidence to the contrary.

    Do you have any evidence to justify your last statement?

  53. The next Dunwoody City Council meeting is on Monday, April 22nd at 6:00PM. The first 30 mins of the meeting is the public comments section where each person is allowed 3 minute to talk and voice their opinions. I have emailed the council members and they all seem sympathetic to the challenges and want to hear from residents – I suspect the in-person route will be the most effective.

  54. @Kirk, From time to time the FCA reports are suspect. There are also a number of things that I don’t think would necessarily show up in the FCA report which makes the Old AES a challenging learning environment. For example, the school was built with the open classroom concept … no doors. In anticipation of moving to the new school, the district has also neglected the property.

  55. If I was a Dunwoody resident or on the city council (which I’m not), it would come down to “intangibles” and decision making within the cluster as to whether this was pursued. Obviously, there may be issues that would make this impossible, however, I would listen to DCSS. They apparently really don’t want to redistrict. I would insist on an opt out clause wherein the city can redevelopment as a park if it choose to. Having a great working relationship with the school system would be a benefit to the Dunwoody cluster.

  56. @William, I have this quote on my front page for a good reason … “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” — Frederick Douglass

  57. I will vote against any and all elected officials who work to allow that old Austin site to be used as a school building after new Austin moves. That building is deplorable, the traffic on Roberts and Chamblee-Dunwoody is already terrible, and we were promised a park on the north side of the city. ALL parks and recreation investment has been on the South side of the city, and this is the only potential location for a new city park for an entire portion of the city. We should not lose a park and bear the burden of additional traffic due to DeKalb Schools’ lack of planning. And the City shouldn’t be solving the school system’s self-created problems. Redistricting is an absolute necessity at this point.

  58. In the land swap with DCSD, Dunwoody promised its residents that the old site would become a park. As Jay pointed out, it would be the only park in that part of the city.

    I will campaign and vote against any elected official who works to transform the old Austin site into anything but a park, and that includes selling it back to the school district.

  59. Until more people show up and raise hell at board meetings, none of this is going to matter to the members not named Stan.

  60. Trying to be helpful

    I’ve had a good back and forth (over email) with the Dunwoody City Council members. In short, what I learned is:
    1. the old AES site (to be vacated by students in Jan 2020 or June 2020 if the new site is delayed) is the property of the City of Dunwoody.
    2. the Dunwoody City Council is singularly responsible for deciding what happens to the old AES site
    3. the Dunwoody City Council says they are in favor of putting in a park, but the timing for the park will take awhile (several years). There won’t even be discussions about the park until after the new AES site opens. The City appears to be single-threaded and only able to handle one big project at at time. Right now they are occupied with Brook Run renovations. So I wouldn’t expect any park to be developed at the old AES site for a LONG time (3+ years after the new AES opens? 2023? Later?)
    4. the old AES site will be vacant for at least 3 years after the new AES site opens. So the $64,000 question is what will happen with the location in that intervening period of time? From what the City Council said, they can’t imagine DCSD would be willing to invest in the old AES to bring it up to acceptable standards. And some Council members say they would definitely not put kids back into the old AES in its current condition. BUT that wouldn’t preclude DCSD from making a deal with the City of Dunwoody to renovate AES and try to reopen that site after the renovations. What does seem clear (for now) is that the Dunwoody City Council would NOT allow DCSD to reopen the old AES “as-is” for students. If they did, even for a short duration, that would not bode well for anyone’s reelection. But I didn’t get a strong sense that a park was a forgone conclusion. The way politics and government works, anything can happen…

  61. Thanks for the update!

  62. Stan, I think we need to have a long term plan that gets us a 2nd middle school, a completely new vanderlyn, and a new DHS and a new High school in Doraville to reduce the overall load at DHS. It’s a shame that new Austin was built so small as to not account for growth in perimeter. I appreciate the idea of repurposing the old Austin site, but it would need to be completely rebuilt. I don’t share the concerns about needing a park as I think dunwoody has gone a little crazy with all these parks. We buy houses in dunwoody with big yards so we don’t need parks.

    I believe there were master plans for the Georgetown area to be redone. That to me seems like a likely spot to build new. For example the new storage building and Nextdoor the building DPD will be using would have been a good area for a new middle school. Perhaps something else can be done in there or behind Atlanta School of Massage? Or another option would be to eminent domain the little office park at Peeler/ChambleeDunwoody/N Shallowford.

    Schools are the flagship reason to live in dunwoody, as opposed to Decatur, and they are the principle reAson for our high property values. If they continue to overcrowd, we will see that reason evaporate and with it our property values. DCSD would be much wiser to appease its primary tax payers and continue to build new and invest our tax dollars back into our region, lest they disappear completely.

  63. Hello Rob. I agree. We need new elementary, middle and high schools. Unfortunately, all the board members are saying that about their community. The school district generally goes by enrollment/capacity numbers as well as Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) reports.

    FCA Reports: https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/building-spaces/#tab-b6766642745cf064a10

    It’s an uphill battle.

  64. Stan- how on earth can some of the districts claim then need additional schools with all of the empty seats in South DeKalb?

  65. They don’t want additional schools. They want their current schools torn down and rebuilt. Some of them are in pretty bad shape.

  66. @stan When do Dunwoody’s tax dollars do the talking for us? How can we force DCSD to keep our tax dollars in Region 1? Do we need some sort of law suit against DCSD for breach of fiduciary responsibilities , wasteful spending, or something like that?

  67. Unfortunately, wasteful spending isn’t against the law as long as 4 of the 7 board members agree to it. It’s a tyranny of the majority. As long as the school district gets waivers from the state the administration and 4 of 7 board members are going to spend as they see fit.

  68. Let’s name names then. Who are the 4 you’re talking about? Are they colluding to help themselves? I’m pretty sure there’s an army of north dekalb families willing to exert extreme pressure and influence to get what we need and deserve.

  69. Ok. Let’s get specific. What project are you looking to get support for?

    Also, technically Region 1 consists of Dunwoody, Chamblee and Cross Keys clusters. Cross Keys is getting two new elementary schools, a new high school and a huge middle school renovation. So, Region 1 is getting more SPLOST V dollars than the other Regions … and rightfully so.

  70. Michelle Fincher

    I’m confused… The district map shows Cross Keys in Region 2. How is it technically in Region 1?

  71. Hey Michelle,
    Districts and Regions are slightly different (it’s confusing). Cluster is a high school with all of its feeder schools. Region is a group of clusters. Region 1 is the Dunwoody, Chamblee and Cross Keys clusters. Here is a map of the various regions: https://www.dekalbschoolsga.org/documents/planning/maps/active-schools.pdf

    District is … board rep district and designates who votes for which board rep.

  72. Michelle Fincher

    Gotcha. I was looking at the Board District map. So, we have Cross Keys in Region 1 for eSplost dollars, but you, our District 1 rep does not get to vote on what happens to Cross Keys. Good grief, a special kind of gerrymandering.

  73. @stan, I’m not talking about just SPLOST $’s. I’m talking about property taxes allocated for DCSD.

    I want 0 trailers at Dunwoody schools. I want every Dunwoody school to be a Blue ribbon school. And I don’t want ANY tax dollars from Dunwoody to go anywhere else until those things happen. Admittedly aspirational, but you’ve got to set lofty goals or we’ll never get any significant progress.

    You can extrapolate that to mean Chamblee and Doraville as well since they are Region 1. We shouldn’t be paying for DCSD all over the county when our schools are over crowded now, projected to be severely overcrowded in just a few years, and DCSD has no serious plans in place to fix the issue with new schools and redistricting. Our property values are coupled so tightly to the performance of the schools that this overcrowding issue is going to drive people away from Dunwoody and hurt our school ratings, thus our property values will also crash.

  74. Hello @Rob. I agree. This is analogous to one of the reasons why Dunwoody became a city. The residents of Dunwoody were paying for a police force, yet a majority of the police force was focused somewhere else. Now, the residents pay for a police force and the police force stays in Dunwoody.

    As much taxes as the residents of Doraville, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Dunwoody pay … more of the tax dollars generated form this area should stay in this area to fix all kinds of issues. Unfortunately, a majority of DeKalb disagrees.

    As I discussed in my last article, DeKalb Schools is looking into Options to Address Budget Issues. The school district is now looking into raising the millage rate and taking out an enormous loan to do some other things as well … including potential an additional elementary school in the Dunwoody/Chamblee area. I’ll have more details on that at the end of the week.

  75. @stan would those loans be tied to a region or specific activities like ESPLOST IV? I’m in favor of tying DCSD’s hands to specific projects and limiting their decision making ability.

  76. @Rob, The board seems to want a specific project list for the loans. I’ll know more by the end of the week.

  77. Kristen Hoskinson

    Here’s an outside the box idea that has worked for other metropolitan school districts, and I would hazard a guess could be a profitable venture here in Dunwoody as well given the increasing presence of Mercedes and State Farm, among others: https://www.constructiondive.com/news/maryland-school-district-turns-to-p3s-to-tackle-85b-backlog/554232/

    This is a public-private-partnership concept that would relieve many of the pressure points around ownership, maintenance, and funding of facilities for our county. It should speed up the process of getting schools built as well.

  78. Stan Jester

    Hello Kristen, DeKalb Schools partners with private companies for construction and project management of all E-SPLOST construction projects. I’m not sure how your suggestion would affect ownership.

  79. Is the idea of the City of Dunwoody creating their own school district dead? Leaving these decisions to the County will always produce mixed (at best) results.

  80. Stan Jester

    Nancy is working with other cities on different ways they can get an independent school district. Can somebody reach out to the Dunwoody city council to find out what their thoughts and ideas are these days on the issue of their own school district?

  81. Can't Happen

    Unless the Georgia General Assembly takes action, it’s not legally possible for a city to create their own independent school system.

    Article VIII, Sec. V, Par. VI, of the 1976 Georgia Constitution (Code Ann. § 2-5306), “[a]uthority is hereby granted to municipal corporations to maintain existing independent school systems… No independent school system shall hereafter be established.”

  82. Stephen Moss

    The issue of an independent school district and the significant obstacles to that end, were discussed in some detail at your recent town hall, with city council members present and contributing to the conversation.

  83. Stan Jester

    @Can’tHappen, what about a dependent school district?

    Stephen Moss, We discusses at length what they did and the many obstacles. What is you perception of what the city is doing about getting their own school district moving forward?

  84. Is our state representative fighting for this? Are the people here for it? I’m new to the area but it seems like a worthwhile movement.

  85. BarbaraFountain

    Stan, any update on search for New supertindent? I can only pray there will be at least one white applicant
    Also I feel north DEKALB taxpayers need to have a vote in the final choice, in the past, that decision seems to always go by the Board’s choice. What about parents and their choice?

  86. Stan Jester

    Hello Barbara, The board approved an RFP for a search firm. We will be selecting a search firm shortly to help us find a Superintendent.

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