Members of a parents group seeking to establish a new charter school in Buckhead received an endorsement from the community’s leading neighborhood group.
At its April 11 meeting, the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods voted to give its endorsement to a proposal to build Atlanta Classical Academy. The Council of Neighborhoods will send a letter to Atlanta Board of Education members in support of the school’s charter petition.
Two members representing Garden Hills and Buckhead Forest on the BCN abstained from voting.
Charter schools have more autonomy than traditional public schools but are expected to meet higher academic standards. Atlanta Classical will use a classical education learning model, one that promotes literacy in Western traditions and the classics.
Buckhead Forest pressed for more information on where the school would be located. Matthew Kirby, chairman of the group, said the group is declining to release this information “till the 11th hour.”
“You can understand our dilemma,” Kirby told BCN members. “We are trying to put an asset in place that would serve the community. We don’t have approval yet and landlords, it turns out, are pretty smart and so it’s very difficult to negotiate your best and final deal, using public dollars I might add, if you have to disclose where you hope to be ahead of time. So there’s a taxpayer perspective to this thing. It’s not in any of our interests to disclose this before we are approved.”
Kirby had previously said the school facility itself would be paid for with private donations. Asked to clarify, Kirby said the charter school would lease space initially, but that private donations will pay for a permanent building.
Under the current proposal, Atlanta Classical Academy will be a K-10 school with an enrollment of 700 students. If the state and Atlanta Board of Education approves the school’s charter, it could open in 2014.
Buckhead attorney Glenn Delk presented the letter, though he was not optimistic about its chances of the charter petition being approved by the Atlanta Board of Education.
“If I had to make a prediction right now, the Atlanta Board of Education will deny the petition,” Delk said. “I don’t believe they’re going to grant any more district-authorized charters. They’re going to force them to go to the state commission.”
Board of Education member Nancy Meister, who represents the North Atlanta cluster of schools, said charter approvals can be difficult. “Nothing has come before the board yet,” Meister said. “I’m not opposed to opening charter schools. It’s got to go through the process. It has to have the parent community support.”
Meister said she did not feel that the North Atlanta cluster will face capacity problems, something that Atlanta Classical Academy supporters say would be a benefit of opening the school. Atlanta Public Schools plan to open the new North Atlanta High this fall.
“There is no capacity issue at the middle and high school levels, and we feel like we have a plan in place for the elementary schools as well,” Meister said. “We do have vacant buildings we have in other parts of the city that we can open up to charter schools.”