Category Archives: Ashford Park Elementary

Where to Build the New Cross Keys Brookhaven High School

Where is the new Cross Keys Brookhaven HS going?

The E-SPLOST V project list includes
• Convert existing Cross Keys HS to a new 1,500 seat Cross Keys MS
• Build a new 2,500 seat Cross Keys HS at Briarcliff site (or “cost‐neutral” location in Brookhaven area)
$85 million was budgeted for a New Cross Keys HS at the former Briarcliff HS site (or cost-neutral alternative site). A majority of the new Cross Keys High School population will live West of I-85 plus students from Sagamore and/or perhaps Oak Grove. The current Briarcliff HS site is East of I-85 on Druid Hills Rd and sits on 17.6 acres. The school district just recently purchased property in Doraville for roughly $1 million per acre.
According to the E-SPLOST V Project Schedule, the new Cross Keys HS project anticipated start date is August of this year. The big questions are:
• Where’s it going?
• How much is it going to cost?
• Are we willing to go over budget to relocate and build the new Cross Keys High School West of I-85?
• If so, where does that money come from?
The school district has spent a lot of time attempting to answer the first two questions. I think there are numerous options West of I-85. Eventually the school district will have to build a high school West of I-85 and land is not getting any cheaper.

Nothing is set in stone, but I don’t think the board or administration want to spend the extra money to do the logical thing and put the high school inside the attendance zone it will serve. The Ashford Park elementary community apparently has the same feeling and is emailing this template to the board.

DeKalb School Board Members and Administration,
As concerned parents in the Ashford Park School district, we are writing to express our ideas regarding the location of the Board-approved new high school in Region 1. To give you some background, Ashford Park Elementary is a school that should make you and DeKalb County School District very proud. We are ranked in the top 5% of all schools in the state of Georgia. This is a statistic that we are very proud of, and if you look back even five years ago, our school was not performing at this level. We are a school that has been recognized by the State of Georgia as a Beating the Odds School by performing higher than expected. We are also a school that is diverse and serving ALL students as evidenced by our growth scores. We are not only STEM certified, but we also house a very successful dual immersion program and are a special needs hub. If you haven’t had a chance to come to Ashford Park Elementary School, we invite you to do so. This community is passionate about our school.
We are currently part of the high-performing Chamblee cluster. Back in the Fall of 2016, we proposed the idea that the new high school for Region 1 should be located in Brookhaven and specifically in or near the current Cross Keys High School. We gained a great deal of community support as we pushed for this new “Brookhaven” High School.
All along, we have supported the idea of selling DCSD’s Briarcliff location (NOT including the stadium) and purchasing land near the current Cross Keys High School. While we know that the value of the land in that area has gone up over the past year and a half, we also know the Briarcliff property has also increased in value. We know that there is a lot of pressure and consideration that goes into making these types of decisions, however, we want to ensure that ALL options are fully vetted before making a decision. We are aware that there are currently a few potential options near Cross Keys High School that should be considered as potential sites of the new school. Specifically, we know that there are currently 26 acres that we believe should be considered as a possible location. Before the Board makes any decisions, we want to know that all options have been thoroughly pursued – beyond mere appraisals.
Another consideration beyond location is the size of the campus. While even 26 acres is not ideal, we understand that the Briarcliff campus property is only 17 acres with a school for more than 2000 students planned. At 17 acres, this location would be the second smallest high school campus in DeKalb. We understand that urban campuses tend to be smaller (and receive waivers from the state), but, in comparison, the Lakeside campus which currently holds 2200 students (and is being designed for 2500) is nearly twice the size of Briarcliff at 33 acres.
In addition to location and size, the idea of placing the new high school on the existing Briarcliff site is one that we cannot rally behind for other tangible and intangible reasons. We feel strongly that placing the new school on that site will remove it from the community it is meant to serve. Disadvantaged families will be the ones to suffer most since transportation will be an issue. As it stands now, N. Druid Hills Road carried 50,000 cars and 1,000 trucks per day in 2016. The numbers now are most likely even higher, and the new Children’s Healthcare could bring another 15,000 or so vehicles per day. In metro Atlanta, our days are often planned out with travel times in mind. A ten-minute drive for essential services is typically a maximum. A drive from South Brookhaven to the Briarcliff site right now can take close to 30 minutes, and longer from other areas of the potential attendance zone. This drive likely will only be worse at two critical time periods of the day—morning rush hour and afternoon shift change at the hospital, each of which would coincide with the major transportation times for the school. Further, Ashford Parkelementary currently is 2.5 miles from Chamblee High School and would be 2.9 miles from the current Cross Keys High School. The Briarcliff site is 5.4 miles away, which would more than double the distance from Ashford ParkES.
Schools thrive when the neighborhoods they serve actually attend the schools and get involved. We feel strongly that putting the new high school on a site that is far removed from the community it serves, and in the middle of a traffic nightmare, will dampen interest and support for the school. We have made progress in building a relationship between the community and the school district and we fear that a decision of this sort would reverse the progress we have made.
As concerned parents and community members of Ashford Park Elementary School, we want to know that the Board of Education and the DeKalb County School District is looking at ALL possibilities before making any decisions. Thank you in advance.

New Learning Cottages at Ashford Park ES

Dr. LaShawn McMilan, Principal of Ashford Park ES, announced last week the 5th grade will be relocated to trailers starting this year.
According to a 2012 Enrollment/Capacity chart, Ashford Park Elementary School was at 124% utilization in FY13 and expected to go to 136% utilization by FY17. Unfortunately, the 10-Year Facility Master Plan “did not consider capacity and projected growth when SPLOST IV projects were identified,” according to Nancy Jester, former DeKalb Schools board member.  “The SPLOST process is political.  The data was made to fit the predetermined decisions in order to justify the building list.”
She goes on to say,

“The DeKalb Board of Education sent a referendum to the voters that funds building new elementary schools where we will only need 40% of the current capacity. Yet, in areas that are already at 100% and projected to need much more, DeKalb is adding very little capacity. Many communities are looking at having trailers in perpetuity. Even if some of the capacity needs were addressed in the next SPLOST, effectively a generation of children will have gone through school in trailers.
When SPLOST IV ends, DeKalb’s taxpayers will have given the school district approximately $2 billion to build and improve schools. It is unconscionable that we have so many children in trailers throughout the district. The weight of this fact was not lost on me during the SPLOST IV process while I was on the board. This is the primary reason I voted against taking this referendum to the public.”

This is the announcement Dr. McMilan sent out:
July 24, 2014
Dear Parents,
As you may know, Ashford Park School has experienced a great deal of growth in the past few years. When I accepted the Principal position in 2012, it was a struggle to keep all of our students in the building. We were only able to keep all homeroom classes in the building by putting non-homeroom classes in learning cottages, and requiring Specials teachers to travel to homerooms to provide instruction. Well, we can no longer avoid the inevitable. The time has now come to move a grade level to the learning cottages. During the 2014-2015 school year, all 5th grade homerooms will be located in the cozy cottages right outside of the cafeteria. The need to move a grade level to the cottages has been predicated by a number of factors. The reasons for such a decision are listed below:
* We have gained an additional 1st grade class due to growth.
* We have gained an additional 3rd grade class due to growth.
* We are required to dedicate a classroom inside the building for STEM activities, if we ever hope to become STEM certified.
* While the 5th graders are the largest students in the school, they are the smallest in number and the most mature students in the school.
* The transition to trailers also prepares our 5th graders for their eventual transition to middle school, where class changes will become a daily practice.
It was not an easy decision to a move a grade level to the trailers, but it is one that could not be avoided. In preparation for the move, the District has added an additional keypad to the cafeteria door that will provide immediate and easy access to the building for our 5th graders. Additionally, each 5th grade teacher will have an extra building key for student use when needing access to the main building. Finally, the Operations Department for the DeKalb County School District renovated all learning cottages last year with new locks; new doors; new floor tiles; new painting; expanded Wifi access; SmartBoards; new lighting; and recoating of all roofs to prevent leaks. Thank you for your understanding. Growth is a great problem to have, but it sometimes comes with challenges. I have no doubt that we are ready for the challenge and we are going to have an outstanding school year!
I hope to see all of you during Open House on August 6th. As a reminder, teachers will meet with families whose last names end in M-Z from 8:00 – 10:00, and A-L from 10:30 – 12:30. Enjoy the rest of your summer.
LaShawn McMillan, Ph.D.