DeKalb Schools is adding seats in North DeKalb and is entering the era of Mega Schools. The new Brookhaven Cross Keys high school will have a capacity of 2,500 students. Surely a school with more students will need more common spaces – larger/additional gym; significantly more cafeteria space; larger/additional locker room; expanded hallways; larger/additional band room, choir room, etc …
Last December I asked the administration about the minimum space requirements for a school with a 2,500 student capacity. Chief Operating Officer, Joshua Williams, shares his thoughts
DeKalb Schools Chief Operating Officer
The District’s targeted space requirements are provided in the High School Education Specifications and are for a new replacement high school with a 1,600-seat student capacity. These targeted space requirements are based upon the recently built Chamblee Charter High School which opened in 2014 with a 1600-seat student capacity. The Georgia Department of Education’s Guideline for Square Footage Requirements for Educational Facilities was used as a starting point to develop the High School Education Specifications and was enhanced based upon the District’s programming needs for curriculum and instruction.
This High School Education Specifications document will be updated to reflect the needs identified for the new larger Cross Keys High School (2,500 – seat student capacity) slated to be constructed under the District’s E-SPLOST V program. At such time, the District’s new targeted square footage requirements for the Cafeteria and Physical Education spaces will be established for any new replacement high school with a 2,500 – seat student capacity.
. Fulton County Schools Districtwide Educational Space Standards
“[DeKalb Schools] High School Education Specifications document will be updated to reflect the needs identified for the new larger [high schools]” –Josh Williams
Thanks Josh. In the mean time, let’s check out what the Fulton County School District (FCSD) does for their mega schools. FCSD has half a dozen schools with 2000+ students.
In 2015, Fulton County Schools engaged a nationally recognized educational facility planning firm to develop a Facility Master Plan. Fulton County Schools Districtwide Educational Space Standards Recommended Spaces for a high school with an 1,850 FTE capacity:
Page 24 – Music: Orchestra, Music Technology, Band, Chorus, Marching Band: High school band room needs to hold up to 200 students plus many large instruments.
Page 26 – Athletics – Participation in athletic activities have shown to have numerous positive impacts on student achievement, discipline, attendance, and overall productivity of the students. In order to support these athletic endeavors, the District must provide a variety of facilities.
Page 48 – Physical Education Spaces In addition to the standard gymnasium with raised track and 2,000 seat bleachers, a high school with a capacity of 1,850 will also need an auxiliary gymnasium with 375 seat bleachers.
DeKalb Schools plans on constructing a 750-seat, 38-classroom, two-story addition to Lakeside High School extending the current footprint and bringing the new capacity to 2,500 seats. Chamblee Charter High School will be getting 600 seats bringing capacity 2,410 and adding 600 seats to Dunwoody High School bringing capacity there to 2,100.
None of the spaces recommended by the Fulton Schools Educational Space Standards are budgeted with these expansions.
Lakeside HS Council
Not A Fan of the Building Additions
January 24, 2018 – To balance out the racial diversity and socio-economics of the student populations attending Lakeside HS as well as evenly distribute the students from the lengthy Buford Hwy Corridor, the E-SPLOST V Project List includes a 750-seat, 38-classroom, two-story addition to Lakeside High School (LHS).
750 More Seats at Lakeside HS? Why?
January 30, 2017 – Lakeside High School is currently cramming 2,184 students into a building with a capacity of 1,756 students. Only one other school in North DeKalb scored a below average 2016 School Climate Star Rating. How will adding 750 seats to Lakeside High School improve their School Climate Star Rating and academic achievement?
Pros and Cons of adding 600 seats to Dunwoody HS
January 7, 2017 – Moving forward, I’m trying to understand the support for the building addition at Dunwoody High School. The speculation that some Dunwoody residents would be redistricted out of DHS seems to be the only reason for any continued support of the building additions.
Lakeside High School (LHS) is currently squeezing 2,165 students into a building with a capacity of 1,756 students. Enrollment is expected to grow to 2,619 students (863 students over current capacity) by year 2022. The board approved constructing a 750-seat, 38-classroom, two-story addition extending the current footprint and bringing the new capacity to 2,500 seats.
The Lakeside High School (LHS) attendance zone is elongated and runs up and down the Briarcliff Rd corridor. Various residents and civic associations have caught wind of the 750 seat expansion project and are doing the research the school district should have done in the first place.
After doing some of their own research, they wrote a letter to county and school leadership voicing their concerns.
Dear Dr. Green and Board of Education Members,
We reach out to each of you because we are concerned about recent decisions made on behalf of our children and our community. We refer specifically to the administration’s recommendation and the DeKalb BOE’s affirmative vote to make physical additions to Lakeside, Dunwoody, and Chamblee Charter High Schools using SPLOST V money. We understand these plans were designed to deliver greatly needed relief from overcrowding in the areas these high schools serve and provide for projected enrollment increases. We fully appreciate the need to relieve the problems caused by the overcrowding.
However, we feel there is far more at stake than facilities. We believe the administration and the DeKalb BOE must consider longer-term options that are potentially more beneficial for our community at large and will ensure a more effective educational experience for our young people. We are speaking up now because, for the majority of our community, there is no knowledge of this significantly impactful plan. We have many concerns but we would like to highlight the most important as succinctly as possible.
• The Lakeside High School (LHS) student population has already been increased to its breaking point.
Lakeside opened in 1964 and its facilities have been enhanced and improved many times over its 53-year history. This includes a $23 million renovation and addition completed in the summer of 2012, adding a new classroom wing and performing arts building. As of 10/3/17 its enrollment is 2,165 and growing. It is still accessible only via Briarcliff Road, a heavily traveled, 2-lane, residential street. To date there are no known plans to undertake the improvements required to stabilize the watershed situation, widen Briarcliff Road and properly support any expansion to LHS. There are multiple reasons these current facilities should not be expanded. More importantly, as the neighborhoods around it continue to grow, a “quick fix” would not serve the community or our students well. Rather a 15-30-year strategic plan to accommodate expected growth and changing student and community needs is a necessity.
• Too few citizens, directly impacted by these decisions, are fully aware of what you have decided on their behalf.
The process included many confusing layers of entities claiming to be the voice of the community, i.e., PTAs, School Foundations, School Councils, the Emory-LaVista Parent Council, the Lakeside Cluster Summit, and more. Most did not provide the administration and BOE with recommendations; others could not reach consensus and some did not know meetings were being held. It is also important to note that these are all “education-focused” groups and do not include community members with no daily connection to the schools. This situation begs the question, “Who speaks for the community when so many were not included in the process, or the communication chain, at all?”
• The DeKalb County Commissioners are in unanimous disagreement with this decision.
The Commissioners have formally asked the DeKalb County School District not to expand the three high schools as described above, but rather to focus on the planned building of a much needed new high school in the Region 1 and 2 areas. The County urges the School District to consider the infrastructure impact caused by adding space for a substantial number of new students at these schools, as well as consider public infrastructure needs as it builds new schools and redevelops existing schools to increase capacity. We believe that for any expansion or building decision to be successful, effective collaboration with, and the cooperation of, the county Planning, Development, and Public Works Departments to ensure infrastructure issues are handled appropriately is essential.
• The DeKalb County School District’s vision “to inspire our community of learners to achieve educational excellence” will not be met by this decision.
The student experience has been severely neglected in this approach. Expansion forces a patchwork of buildings that precludes keeping departments together so they can work and collaborate daily. Many students, especially those riding buses, are currently late to school due to traffic on roads for which there is no planned solution. This impacts feeder schools and instruction time at all schools. With increased traffic, that problem will only worsen. More students will be forced to ride the bus to schools that are further from their homes, and they will be unable to take advantage of after school tutoring and other supportive programs. As each school grows larger, more students will be unable to participate in extracurricular activities due to a limited number of spaces within athletic teams, drama programs, music programs, etc. Further, the expansion plan does not include increasing the common spaces by the same percentage as the student population, i.e., locker rooms, physical education space, cafeteria capacity, etc. If we do not include these factors, which both drive and support an enriched educational experience, the current expansion decision most certainly will inhibit student learning and growth.
• Neglected watershed, fragile ecosystem, and flooding can no longer be ignored.
We speak to this issue because flooding within the Echo Lake Sub Basin directly impacts student and public safety. Lakeside High School sits within the Echo Lake Sub Basin, a fragile watershed that has been neglected for over 40 years. Stream bank erosion and deposition of sediment into creeks, ponds, lakes and culverts have rendered the storm water management system inadequate and untenable.
In February 1976, the Echo Lake Branch Sub-Basin Study, focusing specifically on the 2.5 square-mile area surrounding LHS, clearly recommended what needed to be done to support the natural and man-made infrastructure of this area. Regardless of what may/may not have been done as a result of this study, a new Dewberry Study issued in July 2017 cites the exact same issues and needed corrections 40 years later. It appears that none of this was taken into consideration for the 2011-12 expansion, nor for the current decision to expand LHS again. Increased traffic and projected growth will result in continued damage to this delicate ecosystem and poses a risk to student and public safety. Until the storm water management system throughout the Echo Lake Sub Basin is addressed, there should be no development upstream, including Lakeside High School.
We are sincere in our efforts to support the BOE, DeKalb County and our high schools. Given the overcrowded situation, we seek the best proactive, long-term options available to positively impact the academic achievement of our young people. We are asking that the BOE do the following right now:
1. Place all currently planned actions on hold in order to listen to our community’s concerns.
2. Provide the opportunity for all stakeholders impacted by this decision to fully understand what has been decided and why. This requires transparency through well planned and well publicized town hall meetings that will provide us the opportunity to speak and listen directly to the experts about these concerns.
3. Prepare now to reopen discussion on the current decisions with the goal to adopt long-term solutions that will ensure the education our students deserve as well as protect the physical environment.
4. Respond to this letter providing concrete suggestions as to how we proceed to collaborate on these issues within 30 days.
We stand ready to take on much of the work required to get people out to learn from our BOE officials, the DCSD administration, and other experts who best understand the issues. Further, the school district’s own enrollment projections show that these schools will be at capacity when these expansions are complete and to our knowledge, there is no identified plan for additional growth. This fact heightens our assessment that this is the right time to stop and ensure longer-term solutions are considered so that our students will be inspired and able to achieve your vision of educational excellence.
Barbara Arne Debbie Miller
Stephanie Stevenson (Grand Prix Drive), Kenneth Lippe (Starfire Drive NE), Angela Maki (NBCA), Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. (Amberwood Association), Vijay Varma (Kirkland Drive), Gregory George (Starfire Drive NE)
Enc: LHS Proposed Expansion Map, 1976 Jordan Engineering Study, 2017 Dewberry study, Flooding Image, North Briarcliff Civic Association Fall 2017 Newsletter Addressed to DeKalb County School District Leadership:
Dr. R. Stephen Green, Superintendent,
Dr. Melvin Johnson, District 6, Board Chair
Dr. Michael A. Erwin, District 3, Vice Chair
Mr. Stan O. Jester, District 1
Mr. Marshall D. Orson, District 2
Mr. James L. ‘Jim’ McMahan, District 4
Mrs. Vickie B. Turner, District 5
Dr. Joyce Morley, District 7
Copied to: DeKalb County CEO
Michael L. Thurmond, Chief Executive Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
DeKalb County School District
Joshua Williams, Chief Operations Officer, email@example.com
Richard Boyd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Drake, Executive Director Operations, Daniel_Drake@dekalbschoolsga.org
Trent Arnold, Area 2 Superintendent, email@example.com DCSD SPLOST Citizens Oversight Committee
Randy David, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Redovian, email@example.com Lakeside High School
Damian Bounds, Principal, Damian_Bounds@dekalbschoolsga.org
Mike SanFratello, School Council Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lakeside High School Cluster Summit, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org DeKalb County Commissioners
Nancy Jester, District 1, email@example.com
Jeff Rader, District 2, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Johnson, District 3, email@example.com
Steve Bradshaw, District 4 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mereda Davis Johnson, District 5, email@example.com
Kathy Gannon, District 6, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregory Adams, District 7, email@example.com DeKalb County Planning, Development and Public Works
Ted Rhinehart firstname.lastname@example.org
Luz Borrero, email@example.com
Andrew Baker, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Adams, email@example.com
Peggy Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathaniel Chisholm, NChish@dekalbcountyga.gov
Dave Pelton, email@example.com
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” — Frederick Douglass
“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”