So much for the Brookhaven Cluster. The new Cross Keys Brookhaven High School will NOT be in Brookhaven.
SPLOST V includes “Build a New Cross Keys HS (2,500 seat capacity) at Briarcliff site (or cost-neutral alternative site)” with a budget of $84.8 million.
Over the last several months, the administration has brought to the board potential candidate sites ranging from 25 to 35 acres in size along the Buford Highway corridor (between North Druid Hills Road and Clairmont Road), as the potential location of the new Cross Keys HS.
The DeKalb County Board of Education voted to build the new Cross Keys HS at the former Briarcliff HS site this past Monday at the monthly board meeting. The 26.7 acre site includes the temporary John Lewis ES and North DeKalb stadium parking areas.
The vote was split 3-4. The thee board members who represent the Cross Keys community (Orson, McMahan and Jester) were opposed to the Briarcliff site for the same reasons (more or less):
1. It is difficult, if not impossible, to have a high school out of the attendance zone and on the opposite side of I85 from the community it serves.
2. North Druid Hills is one of the top 10 worst congested streets in Metro Atlanta and will only get worse when the new Childrens Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA) opens.
3. The Cross Keys community has been neglected for far too long.
The other four board members voting for this project did not say why they voted to proceed at the Briarcliff site. The school district put out a press release saying:
1. None of the sites reviewed were cost-neutral, and based on the additional factors shown below, the Board of Education decided to terminate their search for candidate sites and build the new Cross Keys HS at the former Briarcliff HS site.
2. The cost for the purchase of the land (not including finance costs nor the sale of the Briarcliff property) along Buford Highway would have ranged from approximately $36 to $54 million; with the finance costs and the sale of the Briarcliff property, net costs would have totaled approximately $19 to $38 million (land acquisition plus relocation and financing costs less the sale of the former Briarcliff property).
3. The candidate sites along Buford Highway included would have required the relocation of apartment units
Additionally, the school district press release attempted to address the traffic situation saying:
DCSD is coordinating a review of traffic conditions around the Briarcliff site in collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA):
* CHOA, through its Community Investment Agreement with the Brookhaven Development Authority, has already committed $200,000 to the Interchange Modification Report (IMR) soon to be initiated by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).
* CHOA has committed $10 million for the local match for the City of Brookhaven for the interchange improvements to support the growth of traffic in the area due to its new facilities—this $10 million is a 20% match that will bring down an additional $40 million in federal funds for the roadway improvements.
* CHOA is conducting a detailed traffic study as part of its application to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for its Development of Regional Impact (DRI) study that reviews the traffic improvements needed in the area for the new expansion of the hospital campus situated at North Druid Hills Road and the I-85 interchange.
* DCSD is also conducting its own traffic study this spring, in collaboration with CHOA, as the architect for the new Cross Keys HS will initiate its design process for the new Cross Keys HS at the Briarcliff site.
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.