Montgomery ES – Secondary Schools Study Position

Over the past several weeks, leaders of the MES Advisory Council, PTA, and Foundation met to discuss and provide this unified response to the DeKalb County School District’s Secondary School Facility Planning & Feasibility Study.
Their principles and proposals are less band aid and more fix this for our children and future generations. They favor keeping the magnets where they are, selling off Briarcliff and building community schools along with increasing the size of existing schools as infrastructure permits.
Guiding Principles
Celebrate, build into, and replicate success. We should assess what programs and schools are doing well within the district and look to replicate them. We should not implement plans that disrupt that success.
Cost matters, but planning for our future is critically important. While we need to be cost conscious and work within our budget, we can’t be shortsighted in planning for our future. The chosen option should not only address our current needs but position us for future success.
Proximity matters. We want our schools to be a vibrant part of community. This is best achieved if the schools are located in the heart of the population they serve.
Traffic matters. Where possible transportation costs should be reduced for families and the district, negative effects on traffic should be minimized, and safe walking and driving routes to schools should be prioritized.
Community matters. Elementary and middle school communities should stay together through high school, whenever possible.
Diversity matters. Keep all of our schools economically and ethnically diverse. We are extremely fortunate to have the diversity we have in the Chamblee Cluster secondary schools (e.g. in 2014, the student population at Chamblee Charter High School was 25% Caucasian, 46% African American, 14% Hispanic, 11% Asian, and 4% Biracial). This should be maintained.
Educational equally matters. High performing, rigorous learning opportunities should be made available in every school.
Facilities matter. All new and renovated facilities should support 21st century learning. School expansion should be avoided, if possible, and only be an option when adequate supportive infrastructure (e.g. cafeteria space) is made available to serve the extra students.
Primary schools matter. Decisions about funding secondary schools should not be done in a vacuum. Considerations for the effects on primary schools should be encompassed into future secondary planning efforts. The current Chamblee Cluster has developed a strong pipeline of resident families who plan on sending their children to DCSD schools from K through 12. The investment these families have made in their neighborhood schools should be supported by the results of this planning study.
• Build a new high school in the Sequoyah area that can serve up to 2400 students living in the northeast DeKalb County corridor. This is one of the fastest developing areas in the region and the continued growth potential is considerable. If capacity for 2400 students isn’t projected to be needed in five years, a school with less capacity (e.g. 1800) could be built at this time. However, the school should have an infrastructure that can support future expansion to up to 2400 students.
• Create a Cross Keys campus that includes a new high school that can support up to 2500 students and convert the current Cross Keys High School into a Middle School that can support 1500 students. If capacity for 2500 students in the high school isn’t projected to be needed in five years, a school with less capacity (e.g. 1800) could be built at this time. However, the school should have an infrastructure that can support future expansion to up to 2400 students.
• Sell the Briarcliff land. These funds can support the purchase of additional land at the current Cross Keys site and land for the Sequoyah area high school.
• Build additions at Clarkston High School (300 students) and, if necessary, at Sequoyah Middle School (250 to 500 students) that include additional supportive infrastructure (e.g. sufficient cafeteria space) for the students. Any other school additions should only be considered as a last resort to minimize disruptions and avoid overtaxing each school’s supportive infrastructure.
• Keep the Magnet Program within Chamblee Charter High School and Chamblee Middle School.
• Ensure all new and renovated facilities provide modern learning spaces and accommodations for future growth.
• Community input and involvement are critical and should be strongly sought out during the entire process.
In summary, we support DeKalb County School District creating a blended Option A+B that adheres to the points expressed above. This option is economically feasible (Exhibit 1) and will increase the district’s capacity by 5400-5900 seats, provide us with two new high schools, maintain students’ proximity to their schools, promote continued diversity, and allow for minimal disruption to the existing schools.

11 responses to “Montgomery ES – Secondary Schools Study Position

  1. Why only 300 at Clarkston?

  2. al weidenmuller

    This is one of the most thoughtful responses I’ve seen, including the comments made at the public meetings. Blending A+B, along with the other comments in this response, is the one that seems to be most respectful of the needs to address the needs of students and community across the board, rather than some of the more narrow sets of comments that have originated from others. This is also to emphasize the consensus that was noted in the public comment meetings: Option A was the only alternative that actually met the primary goals of the study, with some capacity to allow for additional growth; Option B was the lowest cost, but did not nearly meet the projected enrollment needs over the time period. The consensus, quite correctly, is/was/and should be that the additional dollars should be sought out, obtained, and made available to meet the primary study goals for the students throughout the area.

  3. Has anyone else noticed how thoughtful the responses have been, and considerate of the big picture . . . except for Dunwoody. Their response screams, “Me, me, me!” Every point addresses how Dunwoody would be affected. The others seem to take everyone into consideration.

  4. DeKalb Inside Out

    magadams, You mean like when the DHS position says they would like to go with the cheap split feeder option, except they don’t want the split feeder and would like an additional $17 million to not be a part of that. The cheap split feeder option is great for everyone else, just not them.

  5. What I don’t understand is why split feeders are acceptable in many parts of the United States, but not acceptable in DeKalb County. Most urban school districts, where I have contacts, use spit feeders to minimize transportation costs.
    Why wouldn’t DeKalb County want to send students to the school closest to where they live? Is the answer so that parents don’t get their underwear twisted? Fiscal responsibility is fine as long as it doesn’t affect me.
    As I wrote on Stan’s Facebook page, I don’t believe any of these options is very good. None of them redistrict enough. Building additions on current schools which are already causing traffic issues is a bad idea. Thank you consultants for offering choices between “solutions” which are not feasible, not practical, and don’t solve any problems for at least three years.
    Immediate capacity relief can be achieve with massive redistricting throughout the county. Why isn’t that an option?

  6. In DeKalb, many of the split feeders we are talking about here are driven by capacity and not distance. We are potentially talking about sending students to a school further away because it has the space for the students. I’m guessing some the communities we are talking about splitting off don’t want to go to the other school whether it’s closer or not.
    This really isn’t a redistricting exercise. The cross keys redistricting plan was immediate, granted probably not as massive as you are talking about. I think most parents and students would rather keep going to their current local over crowded schools until this is fixed correctly.

  7. Dose of Reality

    “Immediate capacity relief can be achieve with massive redistricting throughout the county. Why isn’t that an option?”
    This betrays an almost willful effort to not recognize the obvious. It would be difficult, but possible, to make moving attendance lines possible *IF* parents knew that school quality from old school and new school were comparable. But parents know that in many scenarios where lines would be redrawn, that’s not the case. No parent, no matter how much of a big-picture supporter of public schools they are, is going to go for an idea that moves their own child from a excellent, very good, good, or even ‘solid’ school to an underperforming one. What that means is that families with the means to do it will bail on DCSD entirely by going private, or will move to within walking distance of the top performing schools to assure attendance there, or…. some other plan. As much as they are good-hearted and want to see all schools improve, they won’t put their own kid’s school life at risk to do it.

  8. Mr. Lunde and Dose of Reality have made some good points. Many of the suggestions by Montgomery seem to be provincial. We all need to come to a few major concessions about redistricting. One, is that children will have to be moved to different schools and two, attendance lines should be redrawn. Unfortunately that means your child may be moved. The helicopter parents must let their children grow up. They will probably do much better than if we always protect them from any stress.
    I have heard this talk about traffic for a long time surrounding BOE decisions. Folks, look where we live. There will be traffic. Get over it. The magnets should have been in central locations. Briarcliff is your ideal place for the magnet high school. Sell Druid Hills. Emory would love to have it. It would probably bring a large sum of money. We may lose it anyway by way of annexation. Cross Keys is the most valuable piece of land the school system owns. In the past redistricting was not the major problem it is today because as Dose said the quality of the product was pretty much the same from school to school. DeKalb is no longer like that. Is the intent of communities and the BOE to keep Cross Keys isolated in their current gerrymandered district?

  9. Dose of reality — Actually redistricting could help, but there really aren’t enough seats located to where the true crowding is to make it a slam dunk solution. I would add though that Region 3 has lots of empty high school seats and I am unclear as to why Clarkston is getting an addition in all three scenarios.
    I agree with your comments about disparate high school quality as being in play here as well.

  10. Most intelligent

    This plan appears to be the most thought out of any of the plans. Don McChesney shows why he was voted out with the provincial comment. This one looks more broadly than either the Lakeside or Dunwoody plan and is less self serving than the Cross Keys plan (Head down, trying to avoid the fire of the bigotry attack because I’ve deemed the Cross Keys plan self serving).
    Since MES is in the CMS/CCHS cluster, did they sign onto this plan? Why have they been so silent?

  11. In hindsight, this plan was the best one offered up. As a Chamblee High and Chamblee Middle School parent, I sure wish CCHS and CMS had gotten strongly behind this one. Were they asleep at the wheel?