DeKalb Schools E-SPLOST Project Recommendations

DeKalb Schools is telling the public that E-SPLOST is $100 million over budget and is making recommendations to the board to address these budget issues. Below, please find the latest E-SPLOST budget revisions (including project deletions and scope reductions) and potential general obligation (GO) bond to cover the E-SPLOST budget shortfall presented to the DeKalb Schools Board of Education in private rolling meetings Sept 24 – Sept 25, 2019.


Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

Please note that I reject the notion that we have a revenue problem. I also do not agree with much of what is proposed in the Administrations recommendations.

As I have discussed in other blogs, we have a procurement problem in DeKalb. That issue must get solved first. DeKalb taxpayers must not be forced to pay inflated prices for goods and services. This cheats both the students and the taxpayer.

We also know that we have about 6000 open high school seats in the school district. We need immediate relief for our overcrowded schools. This can happen with cascading redistricting. All normal, functional school districts do regular redistricting to optimize facility use. DeKalb must do this. One of the reasons the school district sees a revenue problem is because DeKalb isn’t qualifying for much in the way of State Capital Outlay reimbursement because we have too many open seats. The state will only help you build new schools or additions, if they see the need. That’s not a revenue problem, that’s poor planning.

Finally, because of the aforementioned, poor planning and procurement problems, DeKalb has done a terrible job keeping the facilities it already has in good shape. We are seeing relatively new buildings with system failures. It’s time to put our eSPLOST dollars to good use and fix what we already have.

–Stan Jester
DeKalb Schools Board of Education


PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

DeKalb Schools administration presented a 3-Step Proposal to address E-SPLOST budget issues. They gathered public input and feedback throughout July, August and September including 5 public meetings, an online survey and emails/letters from the community.

RESULTS of PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

The administration heard from the public that facility conditions are a major concern. There is a need for better communication of E-SPLOST projects including prioritization of facility improvements. There is a lack of trust and opposition to raising taxes.

GO Bond – While more funding is necessary, there is opposition to raising taxes.

Arts School – Affected communities are concerned about the condition of Avondale HS facility. K-12 arts school is not a priority.

E-SPLOST V Projects – Facility conditions are a major concern. Do not remove renovations. Immediate capacity relief is desired. Artificial turf is considered a safety issue by many, but is less important than facility conditions.

Chamblee Magnet – The DeKalb Schools community would like to move the CCHS magnet to save money. Dunwoody and Chamblee communities are against moving the magnet. The administration is recommending moving the Chamblee magnet to the new Cross Keys HS facility when it opens.

Other Concerns – Facility needs and projects are not consistently and clearly prioritized. “Cascading Redistricting” is supported by many as an alternative to building additions.

ADMINISTRATION E-SPLOST V RECOMMENDATIONS

DEFUND PROJECTS
• Sprinkler Installations (future funding)
• Peachtree MS Addition (future funding)
• Lakeside HS Addition (future funding)
• Turf Addition (future funding)
• Freedom MS Addition (not needed due to lower enrollment)
• Chamblee HS Addition (not needed if we relocate magnet)

Note form administration: Moving the magnet from Chamblee Charter HS will fund renovations at Hawthorne ES and Fairington ES and parking additions at 10 schools

REDUCE PROJECT SCOPE
• Cross Keys MS Converstion (smaller addition)
• Cedar Grove HS (no turf)
• Clarkston HS Addition (smaller addition)

INCREASE PROJECT BUDGET
• Fence Installations
• Security Vestibules
• New Cross Keys HS
• Dunwoody HS Addition (Larger Addition)
• New Indian Creek Elementary School
• Druid Hills MS Renovation
• ERP System
• Parking Additions

ARTS SCHOOL

There is currently no recommended change in the E-SPLOST IV arts school project. Comprehensive K-12 arts school will be proposed in all GO bond options.

GO BOND


PUBLIC REDISTRICTING MEETINGS

Austin Elementary Public Redistricting Meetings – Dunwoody HS Auditorium (7:00 PM):
• Round 2 – Wednesday, October 23, 2019
• Round 3 – Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Doraville United Elementary Public Redistricting Meetings – Chamblee Charter HS Auditorium (7:00 PM):
• Round 2 – Wednesday, October 16, 2019
• Round 3 – Tuesday, November 19, 2019


RELATED POSTS

Public Feedback Results
GO Bond & E-SPLOST Projects

October 10, 2019 – Results are in from the five (5) public meetings to seek public input on proposed options to address the E-SPLOST budget.

Redistricting First Round Summary
September 30, 2019 – Amazingly overnight, the capacity of the new schools went from 900 to 950. The capacity of all other schools in the feeder pattern dropped by 5% – 20%.

Public Meetings – GO Bond & E-SPLOST Projects
August 7, 2019 – The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is holding five (5) public meetings to seek public input on proposed options to address E-SPLOST budget issues arising from an increase in construction costs as well as additional projects.

E-SPLOST Program Budget and GO Bonds
July 9, 2019 – The DeKalb Schools administration presented 3 options to address E‐SPLOST budget issues. DeKalb Schools will be promoting a GO bond. Everybody gets a carrot except for Chamblee, they apparently get the stick.

Options To Address E-SPLOST Budget Issues
May 13, 2019 – In earlier posts, I discussed E-SPLOST Budget Overruns and Projects on Hold. What’s the plan? Here are the options we are currently looking at.

18 responses to “DeKalb Schools E-SPLOST Project Recommendations

  1. Melissa Schafstall

    Since the recommendation just states moving the magnet but not where it will “move” to, should we just assume this means eliminating it? So now only South Dekalb gets h.s. magnet programs?

  2. Good question Melissa. The administration is looking into moving the magnet program from Chamblee Charter HS to the new Cross Keys HS. I’ll add that to the post.

  3. Melissa Schafstall

    Other magnet questions – do they just expect teachers will fall in line and move to the new location? From what I understand, both magnet and resident kids take many upper-level classes (AP, etc) together, so it’s not like they’re completely separate programs at the high school level. And if students decide not to move, have they accounted for the number of kids who will return to home high schools, such as CCHS and DHS? If, for example, 200 kids have CCHS as their home school and decide to stay there, would that school still not need the addition?

  4. Hey Melissa, I concur … and it’s even more challenging than you suggested. As I’ve stated before, you can’t “move” the Chamblee Charter HS high achievers magnet. What you are actually doing is closing it down at Chamblee and opening up a new one at the new Cross Keys HS. The magnet program is not a school within a school, it is an integral part of the high school. What teachers are going to transfer to Cross Keys? There are no high achievers magnet teachers. Half the students won’t follow the magnet down to Cross Keys thereby exacerbating the current overcrowding issues. CCHS high achievers magnet program is a success because of the CCHS community and not because DeKalb Schools is giving it something the other magnet programs across the county aren’t getting. Due to the waiting list issues, I’m for keeping the CCHS high achievers magnet at Chamblee and opening another high achievers magnet at Cross Keys HS.

  5. DeKalb doesn’t have a clue

    Stan. You are exactly right about poor planning. The failure to redistrict short changes the student and taxpayer. 6000 unused seats is a lot of missing dollars. As a DeKalb taxpayer I would not vote for any new SPLOST programs or a GO bond. Our buildings are falling apart because there is no maintenance direction. Maintenance is based on putting out fires rather than having a predetermined maintenance plan for each school that has a recurring time schedule. Once again remind me how Gwinnett country can build a school using the same construction company that we do for $200 a square foot less.

  6. There is a very important financial point here about ‘moving the magnet’ to the new CKHS. To do this requires making the new high school bigger, which means sinking even more millions of dollars into this already overpriced school. The Trojan horse of getting 2 elementary school renovations and sprinklers for this completely hides the added expense to make CKHS even larger – so it is not ‘saving money.’ This is a hugely important point as DCSD tries to confuse is all with this financial shell game to hide their mismanagement of tax payer dollars.

  7. Jen Greenwald

    Hi, Stan. Appreciate your introduction so much, and agree with all of your excellent points.

    I noticed that public opinion was that the Arts school was not a priority, yet it’s still listed as requiring $15 million if a GO bond is passed. Any idea what the thinking there is?

    Another thought that I’m having is I am wondering how the magnet programs throughout the DCSD affect per student costs.. I’m sure it’s not so simple, but do we know if the students enrolled in magnet programs have a similar cost per student as the students in neighborhood schools?

    Lastly, what do they mean when they say “ Moving the magnet from Chamblee Charter HS will fund renovations at Hawthorne ES and Fairington ES and parking additions at 10 schools.”? Surely changing the location of a magnet program has some initial cost involved, even if long term it saves money, right?

  8. The Comprehensive School of the Arts is a big priority for the administration and most of the board. They like shiny new objects. I’m trying to convince them that this Comprehensive Arts School should not be a high priority.

    The state gives school districts more money to the school district per person for various types of students including special needs, English as a second language, gifted students, etc. These sub groups are more expensive to service.

    How does moving the magnet fund something? Good question. By moving the magnet, we won’t need all these additional seats at Chamblee Charter HS and we can cancel the CCHS building additions.

  9. Thank you for posting, Stan. I would like to point out that there are already two arts school magnet. DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts (k-7) and DeKalb School of the Arts (8-12). The K-12 Comprehensive Arts School proposes to combine the two schools at the Avondale MS site (current home of DESA). The 15million is to add a theater (DESA does not have one) and additional performing arts spaces for the 8-12 students, etc. Stan, you mention that you can’t move a magnet. I agree and believe that if this arts school happens, the district will essentially be closing down DSA and reopening something different in the Avondale MS space. This would be a shame – as DSA is DeKalb’s top ranked high school. At the arts school hearing, it was made clear that the majority of DSA stakeholders and Avondale Estates tax-payers would much rather have a small investment made to upgrade DSA’s current home at Avondale HS and remain a separate magnet program.

  10. Jen Greenwald,

    The proposals were put out before the public feedback. Stan is reposting information from July. The feedback is more recent.

    Stan, has the administration presented the BOE with new proposals. It seems the feedback was pretty much these are all bad, or maybe that is just my opinion.

    At the August Public Input Meeting I asked the administration to scrap all of the eSPLOST V projects that haven’t been started and spend the entire budget on repairing facilities.

    From the 2015 Comprehensive Facilities Report:
    “Funding needed to maintain the current facility condition over the current and forecast period plan at the
    current facility condition index (FCI) of 29.15 percent, a level considered by many references to be “Fair”
    condition. The blue curve indicates the annual FCI over the funding cycle based on the funding provided
    each year. The green columns represent system renewal costs for each year, while the orange columns
    represent the level payments of about $77.7 million escalated each year by 3 percent needed to offset the
    recurring system renewals.”

    The facilities maintenance budget as been less than $19 million until this current fiscal year. For four years, Dr. Green and the BOE ignored the information they had and our schools show it. This problem is more than just SPLOST V. It is a a problem of the BOE not listening to the consultants or their constituents until they need to ask for more money.

    They found $30 million for the early education center. They found millions for parking lot repaving, after telling stakeholders there wasn’t any money. They have money to pay Ramona Tyson $225,000 a year. They even added a project to SPLOST IV in September, after telling stakeholders SPLOST IV was over budget.

    DO NOT give the school district another dime until they clean up their books and start reporting their financial statements using the GaDOE recommended accounts and formats. They need to become transparent and open with their purchasing, accounting, and bookkeeping. My guess is many of the financial “challenges” will be resolved.

  11. Kirk, Sorry about the confusion. I updated the post to be more clear. This is the latest E-SPLOST budget revisions (including project deletions and scope reductions) and potential general obligation (GO) bond to cover the E-SPLOST budget shortfall presented to the DeKalb Schools Board of Education in private rolling meetings Sept 24 – Sept 25, 2019.

  12. Melissa Schafstall

    Jen Greenwald raises an excellent point. I assume the district has the numbers on how much more $ will be needed for Cross Keys if the magnet is also included, especially since they claim this move will save a specified amount of money. Stan, where can we find the Cross Keys + magnet projected cost?

  13. Melissa, The current budget for the new Cross Keys High School is $112.5M for a new 119 classroom high school. I can’t remember if that includes the space for the magnet or not.

  14. Stan, if I remember correctly from the presentation at CCHS the ‘move the magnet’ plan includes ~$20M to make the planned CKHS large enough to accommodate housing the magnet there. This ‘plan’ saves no money and ultimately makes no sense given the proposed plan to make the CKHS MS smaller.

  15. Ramona Tyson is still employed with the school system and being paid$225,000.00 per year? DOING WHAT?
    No GO!

  16. Hi Stan –

    I apologize if this was already covered, but when would a new Cross Keys open? Thx

  17. @Timing … I think you asked the $20 million dollar question. When are we looking at a new Cross Keys HS opening? Best case scenario, it would open in 4-5 years. Realistically, the new Cross Keys HS will open in 6-8 years.

  18. Stan, during the GO bond meeting small groups, the facilitator mentioned that there is already a special program at Cross Keys. I think like a trade school program? Is this true and how would that be affected if the magnet moved? Is there room for both?

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