Monthly Archives: May 2017

City Building Permits For The School District

Many jurisdictions in Metro Atlanta seem to clearly know they are in charge of compliance with their local codes and vigorously perform that task. I’m not sure why others shirk that responsibility.

Georgia Department of Education (GA DOE) Guideline for Educational Facility Construction 160-5-4-.16(a) says, “Temporary educational facilities must meet all applicable state and local building codes and must have a separate certificate of occupancy for each building.”
Atlanta Public Schools has a document, “APS Design Guidelines v2.10 A Planning Guide for Construction and Renovation of School Facilities“, dealing with school construction. Appendix B is “City of Atlanta, Building Permitting Procedures and Guidelines for Educational Facilities.” This document discusses how to be compliant with the City’s local building codes.  Atlanta Public Schools states that “The Architect should allow at least 3 months from the time that the final drawings are submitted for review to the issuance of the permit. A preliminary review by a Plan Reviewer is a necessity to ensure that the process will run smoothly and that all code requirements have been addressed.”
DeKalb County
DeKalb County also issues permits to DeKalb schools for facilities in the unincorporated area.
Decatur certainly enforces local building codes.  In Decatur, the school system must go before the City Council to even place a trailer on school property. Earlier this month, the Decatur School District went to the their council to REQUEST PERMISSION to add trailers to one of their schools inside the city limits of Decatur. Before the City of Decatur would approve the trailers, they wanted to know:

  • Whether the proposed use is suitable in view of the use and development of adjacent and nearby property.
  • Whether the proposed use adversely affects the existing use or usability of adjacent or nearby property.
  • Whether the proposed use results in a use which will or could cause an excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities or other public facilities.
  • Whether there is adequate ingress and egress to the subject property, including evaluation of the traffic impact of the proposed use relative to street capacity and safety of public streets and nearby pedestrian uses.
  • Whether there are other existing or changing conditions which, because of their impact on the public health, safety, morality and general welfare of the community, give supporting grounds for either approval or disapproval of the proposed use.

Until just recently, Dunwoody hasn’t performed inspections or issued Certificates of Occupancy for DeKalb Schools in years. I asked DeKalb Schools Chief Operating Office Joshua Williams to help me understand how things are going to work in Dunwoody.

Joshua Williams
DeKalb Schools, Chief Operating Officer

“Under a new arrangement (via a Memorandum of Understanding), the City of Dunwoody will still be responsible for issuing land disturbance permits, building permits, and the certificates of occupancy.
The DeKalb County School District will hire a third-party professionally certified engineering and inspection firm to perform the building plan reviews and inspections which were previously conducted by the City of Dunwoody.”
–Joshua Williams

The City of Dunwoody has taken a hands-off approach when dealing with building permits and facilities code compliance with the school district. After it was exposed that school facilities were missing Certificates of Occupancy, the City and the School District started to discuss how to address this problem. Out of those discussions, the City approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Dunwoody and the DeKalb Board of Education. I believe the superintendent signed this MOU without notifying the board. I’m seeking clarity on that part.
Furthermore, I’m not sure why the City and school district need an MOU when other jurisdictions seem to clearly know they are in charge of compliance with their local codes and vigorously perform that task.

Flooding Failing Schools With Money And Employees

These are some of the most interesting data points I’ve published. You can read into this table the politics and philosophies of the school district. That includes what the school district is doing about failing schools.
Superintendent Green has been charged with fixing DeKalb’s failing schools. To do so, the school district has flooded these failing schools with paraprofessionals (parapros), social workers, teacher coaches, etc … DeKalb Schools has added over 1,000 school house full/part time employees across the district since 2014 driving the student/employee ratio down in those schools.
The table below shows the enrollment and number of school house employees in every school since 2015. It is ranked by the school with the largest change in the student to school house employee ratio. For example, schools like McNair Middle and High School have seen a large change in the student/employee ratio. Enrollment is half of what it was 3 years ago, but the number of school house employees has roughly stayed the same. The result is that there is a significant increase in employees in the school house per student. Interestingly, at schools where enrollment has increased, the student per employee ratio has remained flat.
If DeKalb Schools can’t address student academic achievement at failing schools now, it is never going to happen.

Note: Demographics are 2015-2016 school year data.

Site Counts By Year.xls