All schools in Sandy Springs should be supported by our mayor and certain city council members. It is hard to believe that our officials have been swayed by the biases of the High Point Community Association (HPCA) and the High Point Ridgeview Coalition for Better Schools.

We can all agree that High Point Elementary School has suffered from significant overcrowding. This is not unique to High Point. All elementary schools have experienced overcrowding in recent years mainly due the resurgence of Sandy Springs as a community.

High Point has taken the brunt of the overcrowding in recent years. One key reason: The population density in the immediate geographic area surrounding High Point is greater than other areas of Sandy Springs. This density is inherent with apartments that line Roswell Road.

The High Point attendance zone suggested by HPCA and the coalition and supported by Mayor Eva Galambos, council members Jenkins and DeJulio, is reminiscent of the efforts of governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry in 1812. The governor’s surname and salamander provide the portmanteau: “gerrymander.” Moving attendance zone boundaries is akin to voting lines to support to political aspiration of a few. Gerrymander sure has a negative connotation to me.

HPCA and the coalition have called for all areas west of Roswell Road, currently within the High Point attendance zone, be shifted to the new Lake Forrest Elementary School. This position is based thinly on traffic issues on Roswell Road south of I-285.

The coalition’s public statement includes the tagline, “We don’t just want a school in our neighborhood, we want a neighborhood school.” They also suggest that neighborhoods north of I-285 should be included in the High Point attendance zone.

Let’s take a look at the rhetoric out there. The HPCA website contains the following statements:

“Even if you do not have children in the public school system, your house value is very much tied to the public school system.” – Sandy Springs Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins.

“We all pay school taxes – and all our children should have an equal chance to attend an excellent elementary school in the public sector.” – Sandy Springs Councilman Tiberio “Tibby” DeJulio.

Unfortunately, when I sell homes in Sandy Springs, I usually recommend that my clients consider sending their children to private schools. What a shame!

“Average home sale in 2007 in Buckhead’s Sarah Smith Elementary School district $897,877 (which is directly south of High Point). Average home sale in 2007 High Point district $641,026 (29 percent less).” – Deborah Harris, real estate professional.

The mayor stated via e-mail: “As a longtime resident of the High Point area I am thoroughly familiar with the situation there.” She continued: “Congestion on Roswell Road is bad enough without the contribution of additional bus crossings.”

Let’s take a look at these statements. They raise some interesting questions. The mayor somehow thinks that there will be additional bus crossings on Roswell Road. These kids already go to High Point. How does this increase crossings? Why is the mayor and city council supporting the Livable Centers Initiative for this same area to “connect home, shops and offices,” and both sides of Roswell Road are not part of the neighborhood school?

Ms. Jenkins is concerned about the value of the houses in the High Point area and not mine? Mr. DeJulio, do the kids at Chastain Apartments deserve an equal chance? Or, just the kids in the $641,000 house?

Here are some metrics that might matter in this decision. The city of Sandy Springs – Interim 2025 Comprehensive Plan – June 20, 2006 provides that:

In 2000, Hispanics make up nearly 10 percent of Sandy Springs. This is the largest percentage in Fulton County.

In Sandy Springs, 54 percent of housing units were in buildings with five or more units per building, the largest number of multifamily units compared with any other planning area.

The apartments house close to 10,000 Hispanics in our community. One example is the aforemetioned Chastain Apartments on the west side of Roswell Road. Based on Google maps here are geographic proximity facts regarding Chastain Apartments:

Apartments to Lake Forrest Elementary via Roswell Road – 3.1 miles, 8 minutes.

Apartments to Lake Forrest Elementary via Lake Forrest – 3.3 miles – 10 minutes up to 20 minutes in traffic.

Apartments to High Point – 1.9 miles, 4 minutes.

So, we should put the Hispanic kids on a school bus, avoid Roswell Road (remember, it’s not safe for these kids) so they can spend up to 16 minutes on the bus hitting all of the stop signs on Lake Forrest. This is the sound reasoning our elected officials are supporting.

My perspective is that the suggested gerrymander attendance zone maps are deliberate attempts to shift the Hispanic school population from High Point to Lake Forrest. I find this despicable that this is being masked by “traffic issues.” It’s even more shocking that our elected officials are supporting this. Perhaps these vocal and biased folks from High Point should spend 29 percent more on a house and move to Buckhead. I’m sure Deborah Harris the neighborhood real estate agent can help them out.

Tom Andrews resides in the Heards Ferry school district.

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