Removed SPLOST Projects & GO Bond

On Monday, the DeKalb Schools administration presented their plan to right size E-SPLOST V.

WHERE ARE WE
ESPLOST V projects were way under estimated and left the school district $166 million over budget. $93 million of the budget deficit comes from new facilities and additions … which shouldn’t surprise anybody.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The administration admitted new facilities and additions projects had incomplete scopes and poor estimates. Program contingency is way too small and each project had no buffer for unforseen expenses. Furthermore, state reimbursements were way over estimated.

Revised E-SPLOST V Budgets and Estimates (Jan 13, 2020)

SO … WHAT’S THE PLAN
We can reclaim $263 million by removing from the project plan the following 8 middle school and high school projects. No GO bonds are recommended.

  1.  Cross Keys MS conversion – $16.4 M
  2.  Freedom MS addition – $11.8 M
  3.  Peachtree MS addition – $17.8 M
  4.  Chamblee HS addition – $28.1 M
  5.  Clarkston HS addition – $22.7 M
  6.  New Cross Keys HS – $111.9 M
  7.  Dunwoody HS addition – $18.3 M
  8.  Lakeside HS addition – $36.0 M

There are currently 6,000 open high school seats. As mentioned in Round 4 Redistricting, the DeKalb Schools administrative team said they wanted to build a plan around clearly defined goals, embrace collaboration and community engagement as well as hire an enrollment/redistricting analytics expert for district wide redistricting and consolidation of elementary, middle and high schools.

TURF, SPRINKLERS & SECURITY
The 8 middle school and high schools not getting additions, will keep turf and other originally planned projects. These schools will keep the following projects:

  1.  Current Cross Keys HS – turf, security vestibule, sprinkler
  2.  Freedom MS – security vestibule,
  3.  Peachtree MS – all projects removed
  4.  Chamblee HS – turf
  5.  Clarkston HS – turf, security vestibule, accessibility improvements
  6.  New Cross Keys HS – removed
  7.  Dunwoody HS – turf
  8.  Lakeside HS – turf

PROJECTS FULLY FUNDED IN ESPLOST V
• All sprinkler projects
• Artificial turf installations at high schools
• All security fencing and security vestibules
• Parking addition at 10 schools (new spaces only)
• All capital renewal projects
• Cedar Grove HS Auditorium addition
• New Indian Creek ES facility
• All technology projects (including GPS/ERP)

$96.8 Million – REMAINING BUDGET TO BE ALLOCATED
ESPLOST V budget is $561 million. The new project list will cost $464 million. What do we do with the other $96.8 million? These 3 scenarios have been proposed by DeKalb Schools administration.

ESPLOST VI
If we can survive the current ESPLOST, the referendum for the next ESPLOST will be November 2021.

48 responses to “Removed SPLOST Projects & GO Bond

  1. I am pleased to see the new Cross Keys High School removed—if that is how I read it. It needs to be in another location accessible to its students and cluster schools. I have not read this in detail but will. I appreciate your updates.

  2. As time marches on, I simply shake my head – and nothing has changed. Read our old posts on the subject of so many open seats in some areas of DeKalb as compared to over-crowding in others.
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/05/north-vs-central-vs-south-whats-deal.html

    Or how about the one that reveals just how many shuttered, abandoned school properties our school district has littered across the county – causing blight and waste.
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2012/01/show-and-tell-mess-of-shuttered-vacant.html

    And yet — the ‘go-to’ solution? Add on to Lakeside! (Again!) Add on to Dunwoody! (Again!) Add on to Chamblee! (Again!) Ridiculous. Daft. And lazy.

  3. Cere, closing down schools and redistricting are two of the hardest things to do. Nobody wants to leave their school.

    There are currently 6,000 open high school seats. DeKalb Schools administrative team said they are hiring an enrollment/redistricting analytics expert for district wide redistricting and consolidation of elementary, middle and high schools.

  4. Stan can you clarify who owns the property and building at the current Path Academy at the former Jim Cherry school site? I understand they have a lease but it should be a viable option for the local students down the road.

  5. I don’t know, but you can look that up here.
    https://dekalbtax.org/property-information

  6. Stan,
    Where will the Cross Keys kids go to school if they have removed the new cross keys high school but are planning on renovating the old cross keys into a middle school? (Maybe I am confused!) Thanks for the update!

  7. PATH school is owned by Oglethorpe U.

  8. Hey John, I fixed my post a little to make it less confusing on that point. The CKHS conversion to a middle school has been removed. Projects for the current CKHS will be turf, security vestibule and sprinkler.

  9. Stan, What’s the timing of the proposed move of Kittredge back to John Lewis Elementary? Would it be grades 4-6 ? What is the capacity of John Lewis?

  10. I don’t have a timeline for moving Kittredge to John Lewis. It’s still somewhat preliminary.

  11. Looks like OU has owned the Jim Cherry property since 1987. Guess they have been leasing it back to DCSD since then. Current valuation is $1.6 million. Not sure OU interested in selling as they have sold off most of their land assets.

  12. I’m not sure voter confidence is high enough to think about another SPLOST vote in 2021.

  13. According to page 16 of the latest Monthly Financial Report, we have $330 million in ESPLOST funds in cash sitting in the bank. Sure would be nice if we could fix a few things and get on with the capital projects we need.

  14. So, this is confusing. Are they going to leave Cross Keys alone as a high school? Did they EVER build an auditorium for them? Ever fix the track? Ever create a workout room for sports?
    Redistricting has to happen. The district also has to stop allowing so many transfers – esp to over-crowded schools. DeKalb schools are pretty bad in general. Arabia is the only one that seems to be comparable to schools in other districts.

  15. John B. Ayoub

    Thanks Stan! It makes better sense now. It would have been nice if they had used the money to build a Doraville High School but as it looks now they don’t have enough money for any new high school. Any idea what the new plan is for the old Briarcliff High site?

  16. DeKalb resident

    LaVista Hills News is speculating that DCSD will sell the old Briarcliff HS property for commercial. I’m trying to figure out where they are getting their info. Any truth to that rumor?

  17. Sell Briarcliff? To who? For how much? Sounds purely speculative.

  18. DeKalb resident

    Very speculative. I’m sure they’re just chumming the waters for their next cityhood bid, but this is their FB post:

    LaVista Hills News
    5 hrs ·
    “Heads up, folks! DCSD is now recommending dropping the new Cross Keys HS on the old Briarcliff HS property. That opens the way for commercial development on that spot.
    Makes you go Hmmmmmmmm? doesn’t it!”

    And a comment: ” Nothing like spending money on a demo only to sell the property”

  19. Stan, thanks for this info. What is meant by supplemental funds for K-12 Arts School? I’m wondering how we supplement something that doesn’t exist.

  20. I am disappointed the administration would admit to poor planning in category 2, but no other category. Some of the category 3 are questionable, to say the least.

    My priorities from the list on slide 17 would be: 1)deferred maintenance, 2)funding the School of the Arts, and 3)a new elementary in Dunwoody. I understand the need for all of the projects and would like to have a public conversation about each.

    I believe it would behoove all stakeholders to begin thinking about how to improve the accuracy of the next FCAs and FEAAs. The operations division should write into the CMP contract that each PAC gets AT LEAST 2 meetings with the consultants to go over the assessments. One of those should be a public meeting where all stakeholders can ask questions and raise concerns. There needs to be mandatory recording of issues raised and how they were addressed. Obvious factual errors need to be corrected.

    There needs to be a consistent assessment done at each school and locker rooms need to be included where there are locker rooms. Playgrounds and access to playgrounds need to be assessed consistently. Current maintenance issues such a leaking roofs, broken HVAC systems, broken windows, etc. need to be included in the FCAs, not ignored as in the past.

    Many stakeholders don’t trust the process based on repeated failures. We need to improve the process. Only when the information is accurate, will people have faith in SPLOST VI.

  21. Years ago, Dr. Lewis was in negotiations with a developer to sell the Briarcliff site – somewhere around $65 million or so I recall. But alas – it has sat shuttered and decrepit, causing blight to an otherwise vibrant area. Good job, DeKalb schools.

  22. Cere,
    The sale of the Briarcliff property did not go through due to a sharp drop in the economy. Right now Brookhaven is trying to annex the property on the south side of Briarcliff Rd at the intersection of N Druid Hills Rd and Briarcliff Rd. The other two corners at this intersection are already in Brookhaven through an earlier annexation. The current effort would include the Chick-Fil-A, Target, and small shopping center on Briarcliff Rd. It would also include the Quick Trip and the DCSD property on which are John Lewis ES, Adams Stadium, and the old Briarcliff HS. The expansion of Children’s Healthcare and Emory make this location less desirable for a school due to the traffic nightmare. The Emory expansion along I-85 makes moving Cross Keys HS there less feasible as students would be traveling out of their neighborhood across the interstate and through this huge Emory complex. Unfortunately, it is a great location geographically located between Lakeside HS, Cross Keys HS, and Druid Hills HS. There is no other land in between these schools for future expansion. Turning down the opportunity to purchase/trade property adjacent to the current Cross Keys was a poor decision by DCSD.

  23. DeKalb resident

    Cere, I’m not sure that bringing up a failed decision by our jailbird former decision brings anything of value to the discussion. Crawford Lewis’ administration did a lot of shady things. They were only arrested & jailed for one of their biggest mistakes, but there was plenty more they could have gone to jail for. Had DCSD sold the Briarcliff property back then, I doubt any of the $65M would have been spent on anything worthwhile. It would have been skimmed or squandered or both. We’d be no better than we are now, and we wouldn’t have that property as any sort of fallback.

  24. @Cere: You’ve not been by the old Briarcliff site in a while, have you? It’s been torn down, and the site is green space now.

    Oglethorpe Univ. owns the former Jim Cherry ES site, and leases it to DeKalb Path, which is a start-up charter school.

    The district looked at NUMEROUS options to try and find property in the Cross Keys cluster for the new high school. But acquiring that much land was incredibly cost-prohibitive, and the board voted to choose the former Briarcliff site as the site for the new high school.

  25. Insider, Talk to the Brookhaven Mayor and City Council about the location of the new Cross Keys HS. DeKalb Schools was really far down the path of putting the new high school West of I85. Overnight, the administration drastically changed their story and said it had to go at the old Briarcliff site. Something happened between the City of Brookhaven and the school district administration … it wasn’t the cost. That’s just the line the school district was feeding everybody.

  26. @Cere – The article you shared was from 2012. Since then, DCSD has spent a great deal of money demolishing old, vacant buildings and turning them back to green space.

    To the best of my knowledge, the only two vacant buildings the district has are the old Terry Mill building and the former Kittredge building. Feel free to join us in the new decade.

  27. @Stan: Then the board has some responsibility in sharing disinformation. The board said that Cross Keys could be built somewhere as long as it was cost neutral (or budget neutral.) Estimates for acreage to build the new school were in tens of millions of dollars. That’s not budget neutral,

  28. “It wasn’t cost neutral” is the line DeKalb Schools administration sold the public and a majority of the board on. Talk to the City of Brookhaven about it.

  29. @DeKalb Resident: Actually, spending money on a demo often makes the property MORE valuable, since the purchaser will not have to spend money – and lose time – to demo an existing building.

  30. @Stan… why don’t you enlighten us? You obviously have inside knowledge the rest of us don’t.

  31. I’m limited to what I can say by executive session. The council and mayor of Brookhaven have a lot more insight than I do. They worked with the school district administration for a long time to get the high school west of 85.

  32. While I am happy that we are not building more classrooms at DHS I am very disappointed that we won’t have the new spaces promised for Band, Orchestra and Chorus. This is the 3rd time that DHS was promised new music facilities and it looks like the 3rd time it was taken away. Last time the new facilities were in the plans and then we found out that we were not getting them when those pages were torn out. DCS has let down our students, teachers and parents again and again and quite frankly, we deserve more.

    Every other HS in the county has state-of-the-art designated music facilities. Some of these schools have even had upgrades and some of these schools have rooms sitting vacant with no teacher or students. Dunwoody was built in 1971 and originally had a band and chorus room in the basement of the school. Since then we have added an orchestra program that is now in the chorus room which means our chorus teacher does not have a designated space. He has to go to other teachers rooms during their planning period carting music and sometimes a keyboard. This is certainly not ideal and is doing both our students and teacher a disservice. Our school population is now 2,250 which means our music programs are bursting at the seams. Our facilities are no longer adequate and verge on being dangerous especially during an emergency evacuation. The school basement has been flooded and still has a lingering damp smell which cannot be healthy.

    Our Band, Chorus and Orchestra teachers are some the best in the county providing high quality teaching to our students. Unfortunately the facilities do not match up and it is becoming apparent to our students and parents when they visit other high schools in the county during competitions and festivals. The students are disheartened and our teachers are disappointed. Promises were made to our newest employees during their interview stage that we would have new facilities in the next 2-3 years. I can’t imagine how they feel now.

    Some of you on this blog will say that music is not important or a priority. To that I say imagine a world without music. Music is in everything and a big part of what makes us human. When we don’t protect it we are saying we don’t care and that’s just a shame.

  33. Hello Mary. I agree. It’s unconscionable that Dunwoody HS doesn’t have adequate Band, Orchestra, or Chorus areas … among other things. Unfortunately, there was never the money in the budget. DHS was never going to get those things whether DHS got the building additions or not. This was a bait and switch maneuver … think Lucy and the football.

  34. Mary,

    I agree with everything you wrote except one sentence. “Every other HS in the county has state-of-the-art designated music facilities.”

    That is not true.

    Even Tucker High, which is only 10 years old has music facilities that are the same 1960s design I had when I was in high school. I can’t imagine what the music facilities at Cross Keys H.S. look like.

    Fine arts is never a priority and rarely a consideration of the DCSD administration. Stan was correct in his observation. The administration pulled a bait-and-switch. You can’t believe anything you hear until you verify it.

  35. @Mary and every tax payer in DeKalb County…. if you really want to get your feeling hurt, go to SWD and look at their state of the art Fine Arts Center. They were allowed to use Lassiter High Schools blueprint for their model. Really this should be the model of every DCSD school. It is helpful for hearing and hearing problems that could arise for the students and the teacher.

    My problem with this is that the school system should keep one model and not choose who gets more space and more funding than another school.

  36. @Stan – So if there was never any money in the budget, why did the principal tell the music staff including new hires and parents that we were getting new facilities? Does the DCSD lie to it’s principals or are they in on it?

    @Kirk – I’ve seen Tucker’s facilities and they are far superior to Dunwoody. You really need to check out our facilities for yourself. Perhaps we need to compare photographs for everyone to understand how dire our circumstance is.

  37. Mary,

    I am sure Dunwoody’s are worse than Tuckers. My point was Tucker’s are NOT state of the art.

    If you don’t mind me answering the question you asked Stan, Yes. DCSD lies to principals. The central and regional staff treats principals poorly and have not qualms about lying to them.

  38. What about Hawthorne Elementary? Maintenance to the HVAC and restrooms is long overdue.

  39. Amber Rhea,

    The Hawthorne E.S. project is to be fully funded. Maybe, there won’t be anymore sewage backing up onto the floors? We can hope.

  40. escapee from Dekalb

    Let me make a suggestion….take pictures from every school showing the conditions at the school, the grounds, etc…. maybe make a dedicated site online for it– showcase the waste of resources this system has done for years. Show the shining examples of things done right and then ask why only some students have these resources, but others do not. I would also like to know how other systems manage their aging infrastructure. It is so obvious that DCSS has no clue. Take this information to the people and see what they say about giving even more money to be wasted.

    Remember– it is NOT the day to day employees making the decisions of what makes the list on the repair replace priority. Those decisions are made at the 10,000 foot level and those folks have not been in many schools for years.

    Just a thought.

  41. escapee from DeKalb,

    The students from DSA did that. They created an Instagram account, @dsa_petitioners, and posted photos of their school. The day after Marlon Walker from the AJC asked Dan Drake about it, he was in the school. Work started the next day.

    A picture is worth 1,000 emails, but media attention is worth more than gold.

    Speaking of Dan Drake, has anyone heard anything about the “Trailer Taskforce” he promised the BOE he was going to put together to address work orders?

  42. @Insider: I recall reading articles that Brookhaven wanted new Cross Keys HS to remain west of I85. The ES’s and MS’s that feed into CKHS are west of I85 and it was felt that the burden would be high on parents who have kids at both the new HS that would be east of I85 and also in ES’s/MS’s that are all west of I85. Cross Keys HS should be renamed as Brookhaven HS and should remain in Brookhaven. I recall that the article said that Brookhaven said that they would purchase the site for a renovated/new CKHS at their expense, clear it, and give it to Dekalb County for free. Dekalb County rejected this. I think that Brookhaven was going to purchase 1 or more contiguous old apt complexes at CKHS or somewhere, provide funds to tenants and help them secure new apts, and then clear it out for a new CKHS. I think Dekalb thought it would be unfair to do this to tenants so they rejected this and went west of I85 for a proposed new HS. It seems that it was illegal for Dekalb to reject this option as it is cost-effective and this plan should be revisited. There are laws that require govt agencies everywhere to select lowest cost bids for work and, receiving free land seems like it was a lower cost option for the county than the county using some other land. If the county happen to be using land it owned for new CKHS, then it is more cost effective for the county to use the free land from Brookhaven and sell the land that was to be use for new CKHS – this is way more cost-effective and shoudl be legally required. I think Dekalb rejected it since they sort of view the apts as a protected status that should be left alone – they think it is unfair for Brookhaven to buy out the apt complexes for a fair price, provide tenants with funds, and help them move. As a comparison: the elevated proposed commuter lanes that are being erected (or to be erected) along I 285 and 400 are proposing eminent domain to buy up to 300 homes. In other words, this project is forcibly buying/demolishing up to 300 homes in order to make way for wider highways and elevated roads on each side of the highways. No one involved with that project cares about who inhabits any of the homes or apts that are in the way nor do they look at any dwelling as any sort of protected class – they are going to forcibly buy them and demolish them whether anyone likes it or not. The elevated roads could impair several Fulton County schools and the project managers don’t care – full speed ahead. The FC schools that will have an elevated highway near it are: North Springs HS, Sandy Springs MS, Riverwood HS, Woodland ES, Heards Ferry ES, Dun Springs ES, Ridgeview MS.

    @Mary and Stan: regarding an arts wing: instead of a wing (which DHS should have), a quick fix would be to convert the atrium in front of the auditorium into 2 floors. The atrium is the length of left side of the HS and the ceiling of the atrium goes up really high. The atrium is nice but doesn’t need to be that high. It can be re-engineered to turn this one story atrium into 2 stories. The atrium/lobby is currently wasted space. Its new ceiling wouldn’t be as high but still suffice. A new floor above this (on a new 2nd story) would be very long and could be split into 1 or 2 or 3 separate classrooms for use by band/orchestra/chorus. Then the band and orchestra rooms currently in the basement can maybe be combined into a larger toom for use by band or orchestra or chorus or drama or anyone who needs space (or the basement rooms remain as individual rooms). This option doesn’t require an addition or new slab/foundation. It would require a new floor and supports and converting the tall glass windows on outside of atrium into smaller windows for each floor. This seems like it would be aesthetic and still have a decent lobby – the lobby could still used for whatever it is used for nowadays.
    Doing this seems like a low cost solution to give arts its space. The county needs to look at this type of lower-cost solutions. Converting the fields to turf is also a lower cost solution to maximize the use of space as turf fields can be repeatedly used by all sports for schools that have huge populations but limited field space – turf fields maximize use of fields over using grass. The county is proposing converting many fields to turf and should use this cost effective idea for converting the atrium to usable space – much cheaper cost than adding a new wing.

  43. Not clearly defined above but back to basics.

    Might schools ensure disabled children and those using wheelchairs have a path to get to a user friendly playground.

    Might our children have bathroom stall doors and soap dispensers that don’t fall off the walls and locks so they may use the restroom in privacy.

    How about enough cleaning supplies for the janitors.

  44. Two comments: what I remember about the old BHS property was that the developer got so much negative backlash, they pulled back. It also could have been DCDS was exploiting the buyers but I know the public did NOT want that kind of multi development there. Second thought, when are educators going to realize that all the arts and PE are healthy for all children, especially those at risk. It is worth putting our focus and money into those teachers, facilities and programs. Cherokee County schools were advanced under a former DeKalb superintendent and now led by his son. I know at one HS, they have an extensive band and orchestra program. Look at the success of our DeKalb School for the Arts.

  45. @DS: I apologize for the long email – I wanted to provide detail to each recommendation. To be more brief: the county should accept Brookhaven’s offer of free land for a new CKHS as “free” is the most cost effective solution. The county should convert the long, very tall arts atrium at DHS into two stories with the second floor having classrooms for band/orchestra/chorus – this is way cheaper and more cost effective than adding a new arts wing to DHS which the county will likely never construct due to cost. Both of above are cost effective: free land for HS in a location that Brookhaven wants and classroom space for arts at DHS for maybe $500K to $800K which is way cheaper than a new $3 million art wing.

  46. Regarding the below funds that are saved, it looks like the county should build a Doraville HS. Doing this will likely result in not needing to expand various MS’s and HS’s. I believe students in Doraville attend Peachtree MS, Dunwoody HS, Chamblee HS, and Lakeside HS. If this is accurate, then maybe expansion at those schools is not needed which saves $100 million. A new HS in Doraville may cost $60 to 80 million so there would be savings of $20 to 40 million. This option also avoids expanding schools that have no land to really expand. Expanding a school requires land for the building but also requires an expanded cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, and fields and some of those sites do not have this land. If the county moves forward in the future on the option of expanding all these schools, a new Doraville HS would seem preferable as it is closer to the population there who attend schools elsewhere and avoids the dilemma of what happens when you expand a school too much that there really is no land left for anything.
    Peachtree MS addition – $17.8 M
    Chamblee HS addition – $28.1 M
    Dunwoody HS addition – $18.3 M
    Lakeside HS addition – $36.0 M

  47. Good thing they’re dropping the GO Bond – according to the AJC, DCSD is about to have its credit rating downgraded because its audit is going to miss the deadline.

  48. DeKalb Mom,

    The administration was 12 months late submitting the FY 2018 financials to the state auditors. Some people are trying to imply the delay is due to the auditor, but that is not true.

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