Buckhead parents are cheering the news that Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis wants to leave their school zones exactly as they are – for now.
Davis released his recommendations on March 4, and the board will consider approving them on April 10.
If Davis’ plan is approved, no elementary school boundaries in the North Atlanta cluster, which includes Buckhead, will change and there will be no new middle school that would mix Buckhead students with students from Centennial Place Elementary, which is not in the North Atlanta cluster. Other clusters weren’t so lucky. Davis proposed closing 13 schools in other parts of the school district.
When Davis holds his March 13 community meeting at North Atlanta High School to discuss his proposal, it’s likely to be a different scene than school officials and demographers faced in prior meetings. The parents who crowded the school’s auditorium waving signs, wearing specially printed T-shirts and shouting over the school system’s demographers during presentations will likely be in a better mood, Bolton Academy parent Beth Hamilton said.
“I think there will be a lot of people showing support and I’m pretty sure it will be positive,” she said.
The school rezoning process was designed to balance underutilized schools with overcrowded schools. Buckhead parents were furious when earlier proposals suggested moving students from different clusters into their overcrowded schools.
Davis’ proposal follows closely the final recommendations of consultants hired to draw up the initial map proposals. Davis left open the door for using Sutton Middle as a sixth grade academy at some point in the future, an idea enthusiastically supported by some parents.
The sixth grade academy would be exclusively for sixth grade students, and Sutton Middle, which will move to the current North Atlanta High, would educate grades seven through eight. North Atlanta High School will move to the former IBM campus on Northside Parkway.
Davis said E. Rivers Elementary would be completely rebuilt starting in 2013 and the current Sutton site would need to house E. Rivers students for 18 months during that time. Davis said the student populations at Morris Brandon and Garden Hills Elementary schools will be monitored and decisions about how to handle overcrowding at these schools will be made at some future date.
Cynthia Briscoe Brown, co-president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, said parents recognize that the school system will revisit the status of Morris Brandon and Garden Hills.
“I think generally within our cluster, we’re comfortable with matters as they stand, but I think there are some other areas of the city where there are problems that were not addressed,” Brown said. “We hope those get addressed. We want to be supportive of our neighbors in other areas of the city who still have needs because everybody ought to get what they need in order to be successful.”
Amy Shea, a co-president at the North Atlanta Parent Teacher Student Association, said Davis “had a very transparent process that included a lot of dialogue between the school board and himself and the community, so I think the end result was something the majority of the community is going to be very happy with.”
Reide Onley, a member of the Sutton Middle PTA, said it’s a testament to the cluster’s strength as a community.
“Our concerns and our ideas and our support for APS and the board of education were heard, and it’s comforting to see a result that speaks toward the superintendent and board of education listening,” he said.