Parents opposed to turning the current Sutton Middle School site into a sixth grade academy listen to Superintendent Erroll Davis during a March 13 meeting at North Atlanta High School.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis proposed turning Sutton Middle School into a sixth grade academy after an organized and motivated group of parents urged him to support it.

But another group has organized to oppose the concept, arguing instead for two smaller middle schools. Davis made the recommendations as part of his overall redistricting plan for APS.

Parents showed up at North Atlanta High School Tuesday night, March 13, wearing orange shirts and carrying signs that read, “2 middle schools = Twice the Opportunity.” Like the sixth grade academy advocates, who campaigned using the Keepsuttontogether.com website, advocates of two distinct middle schools are directing people to 2MiddleSchools.com.

“Studies show multiple transitions are detrimental to overall student achievement,” the 2MiddleSchools.com website says.

The sixth grade academy concept would give sixth grade students a transitional year between elementary school and middle school. Under Davis’ recommendation, 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.

The sixth grade academy would be implemented when the future middle school campus at the current North Atlanta High exceeds capacity, Davis said.

Chad Holmes, a parent at Sutton Middle and Warren T. Jackson Elementary, said an independent sixth grade school would mean limited parental involvement, an additional stressful transition and one less neighborhood middle school.

Davis said both ideas had merit, but he had to choose one. He said he made his decision because he felt the sixth grade academy would ease students’ transition into middle school and cut down on school bullying.

“I believe either of these two would work perfectly well,” Davis said.

Another parent asked whether the sixth grade academy would overcrowd Sutton.

“Actually it would not overcrowd the Sutton site at all,” Davis said. “Actually we would have the opposite issue. Underutilization is a concern more than overcrowding.”

In other news from the March 13 meeting, Davis suggested there might still be changes left for Buckhead’s maps, particularly for E. Rivers and Garden Hills elementary schools, which he says are the most stressed in terms of capacity.

Davis predicted the final maps won’t change much and said there will be no school boundary changes that move students currently in the North Atlanta cluster of schools to another cluster.

Davis’ plan is subject to approval by the Atlanta Board of Education and the current timeline has the board voting on the maps April 10.

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