Mayor Mike Davis – Austin ES Rebuild Update

Stan Jester
Board Of Education
District 1

Superintendent Green and his staff have approached the Austin rebuild situation very methodically. I asked Dr. Green and his administration to meet Dunwoody’s city representatives and work with them on a solution together.
Dunwoody Talk cracks me up.  Be sure to read Callihan’s latest take on the Austin ES rebuild.
Mayor Mike Davis sent this update on the Austin ES Rebuild this morning.

Mayor Mike Davis

Keep Austin in the Neighborhood
By: Mayor Mike Davis

The ability to walk your children to school is one of the reasons why Dunwoody is an exceptional place to live. Recent discussions have brought this issue (and others) to the forefront as the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has been exploring the future of Austin Elementary.Walking kids to school is not the sole benefit of neighborhood schools; critical factors such as home values, quality of life and class sizes are all at stake. But keeping Austin within its immediate vicinity on Roberts Drive is obviously the leading factor for Austin families.In late September, DCSD representatives briefed Austin Council members on plans for a renovation/rebuild and a potential new location with an increased capacity to meet future growth. These plans included the possibility of locating the new facility to an undisclosed spot within a “3 mile radius” of Austin’s current home.
Upon hearing this, I decided it was time for the City of Dunwoody and in particular the mayor to have a meaningful seat at the discussion table.
I took this as a call to action and set up a meeting this past Friday with Joshua Williams, Chief Operating Officer for DCSD and Daniel Drake, Director of Planning and SPLOST Programming for DCSD. I had our senior staff and mapping people with me so we could show dynamic changes as we virtually moved the school from site to site.
Austin Elementary has a current enrollment of approximately 660 students and a maximum capacity of 616, hence the need for four portable trailers on site. After initial discussions of the current issues, we all agreed something needs to be done to address the long-term success of Austin.
Unfortunately there are challenges in front of any change. The construction of a larger school on the current site is viewed as difficult for a variety of reasons including usable acreage, high voltage power lines, high pressure petroleum pipelines, traffic patterns and playground space needs.
Contrary to neighborhood rumors, the city has never been presented with a proposal for DCSD to buy the ball fields to the south of Austin. The ball fields have deed restrictions making it difficult (but not impossible) to put a school there. This is a definite possibility and really the only option in my mind other than leaving the school on its current site.
The only green field site in Dunwoody is the field across from the MARTA station. With State Farm paying $8 million per acre across the street, that site is out of the question. Buying out a neighborhood or commercial area is too expensive also.
It’s worth noting, Mr. Williams and Mr. Drake were pleased with the ability to finally work with a city government regarding decisions affecting an almost perfect school cluster (1 high school, 1 middle school and five and a half elementary schools). In the unincorporated parts of the county it’s difficult for them to find a single person or group who actually represents an entire community’s needs and requirements.
In the end, DCSD heard us loud and clear on keeping Austin a local school. I left with the promise of returning to the discussion after DCSD has conducted its next round of legal, cost and feasibility studies to collectively determine an efficient, amenable and community-minded solution.
I went into this meeting with two primary objectives. First, keep the Austin school in the footprint of the current attendance zone, hopefully on Roberts Drive. And secondly, avoid moving the students to a temporary site for 2 years while the school is rebuilt at the current location. A major objective of the school system is to build capacity for future growth, utilization, teacher-to-student ratio and class sizes. I’m pleased with the direction our talks have taken so far.

2 responses to “Mayor Mike Davis – Austin ES Rebuild Update

  1. I think it is great that Mayor Davis is working to maintain the local aspects of Austin and has engaged DeKalb County directly.
    I did have to laugh though. Capacity of 616 and you have 660 students and 4 trailers. Cary Reynolds has capacity of 700 but has over 1100 students and 26 trailers with PLENTY of room to build a new school, but all we hear is crickets. And sadly, Cary Reynolds is the norm in the Cross Keys cluster, not the exception. Up until this fall, those cries of help fell relatively upon deaf ears. Finally we have some action, at least on the surface from Dr. Green and others.
    As a reminder, the Cross Keys cluster includes 3 cities plus a section of unincorporated DeKalb. In addition there are 3 different DeKalb County School Board Members that have responsibility and oversight for about 1/3 of the district, whereas Dunwoody is solely served by Mr. Jester, which makes it easy to advocate for and lobby.
    So I wish you the very best as you look to address your overcrowding and plan for a new and improved campus. Please keep in mind that there are schools, not to far from Dunwoody, where the conditions are much much worse.

  2. I’m writing to express my support for your plan to address the overcrowding issue in the Dunwoody cluster. We’re advocating a solution that makes more seats available for students. A new elementary school with a larger capacity will benefit all of the families in our community.
    We have a large school, but it feels small. Our students are excelling and taking advantage of new programs and new technologies. We have plenty of students who can walk to school, but that’s not what makes our school special. Instead, it’s the committed executive team, dedicated staff, creative teachers, involved parents and motivated students who make a difference every day. It’s a true community school.