Hundreds of parents gathered this month to learn about Cross Keys cluster redistricting. (Photos by Dyana Bagby)

Hundreds of parents gathered this month to learn about Cross Keys cluster redistricting. (Photos by Dyana Bagby)

DeKalb County school officials laid out five redistricting options they said would alleviate the overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster next year, but several concerned parents and family members said the suggestions do nothing to help.

Hundreds of parents packed the gym at Sequoyah Middle School on Jan. 14 to hear the DeKalb County Public Schools’ options to relocate students from one school to another in a temporary effort to lessen overcrowding at schools including Cross Keys clusters. Schools in the cluster are Cross Keys High School and Cary Reynolds, Sequoyah, Dresden, Montclair and Woodward elementary schools.

“The Cross Keys cluster has been neglected for too long. If the school construction proposal drags out for years none of the kids currently in elementary school will see any improvement,” said Mary Novotny, a parent of a pre-schooler who will be assigned to Woodward. “That would be a failure on the part of our community. Explain that to a seven year old.”

“Any redistricting proposal must be accompanied by a commitment to build new schools,” she added.

Parents met in small groups to discuss Cross Keys cluster overcrowding.

Parents met in small groups to discuss Cross Keys cluster overcrowding.

Lynn King, another concerned parent, was also displeased with the school district’s proposals.

“The county has completely forgotten about this area and it’s not fair,” said King, who has two sons, ages 11 and 12, attending Chamblee Middle School and The Globe Academy. While her sons won’t be directly effected by the redistricting proposals, she said the county has been negligent for many years in addressing the overcrowding.

“The county hasn’t listened to the concerns of citizens when we tried to tell them 15 years ago this was a problem,” she said.

More than 100 portable classrooms, or trailers, have been installed at the Cross Keys cluster schools to help with overcrowding; DeKalb school officials say the cluster has nearly 2,000 more student than it can really hold.

The redistricting options are, according to DeKalb County Public Schools, a way to reduce portable classrooms for the next school year. School officials also warned parents that students may not be sent to their closest school because of criteria such as safety,traffic patterns and balancing of special programs such as ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages.

Plans for new construction?

Brookhaven Councilman Bates Mattison said he attended the meeting as a representative of the council. “I think the Cross Keys overcrowding is a tremendous problem. Good educational options equal economic development,” he said. “I didn’t hear discussion of new construction. You’ve got to build new facilities. We are going to become a denser, more urban area over time. This conversation has to be combined with a capital plan.”

There are plans to build two new 900-seat elementary schools as part of DeKalb E-SPLOST V which goes to voters in May and, if approved, construction is set to begin in July 2017.

Lynn King said she is unhappy with the redistricting options for the Cross Keys cluster.

Lynn King said she is unhappy with the redistricting options for the Cross Keys cluster.

“You’re pinning these new buildings on people voting for SPLOST, and that may not happen,” King told Hans G. Williams, a planning analyst for DeKalb County Public Schools, during a small group breakout session after the options were presented.

“You can’t say you are going to build new schools in two years – that is false hope unless you are going to put it in writing that you will start on this date,” King said.

 

Allegations of bias

Jose Mendez, 30, graduated from Cross Keys High School. He has a nephew at Cary Reynolds and two nieces – one a freshman, the other a senior – attending Cross Keys.

He said students at Cross Keys don’t have lockers and are forced to carry their textbooks to each class. He also said he believes DeKalb school officials are intentionally ignoring the Cross Keys cluster because of the high number of Hispanic students in the system.

Jose Mendez has two nieces at Cross Keys High School.

Jose Mendez has two nieces at Cross Keys High School.

“Are they being this way because of the language barrier? I don’t want to say they are being racist, but it’s something similar to that,” he said.

Cross Keys High School, located in eastern Brookhaven, has a diverse student body with 67 percent Hispanics, 16 percent African Americans, 13 percent Asians and 3 percent whites.

Doraville City Councilwoman Dawn O’Connor expressed deep frustration with the school district’s options.

“They are just playing musical chairs. This is not a solution, just moving students from one school to another – and you still have overcrowding,” she said. At Cary Reynolds, the school is old and falling apart, and students don’t have access to safe restrooms, she said.

A Doraville resident for 38 years, O’Connor said the overcrowding began “a long time ago” when districts were “gerrymandered because they didn’t want certain economic groups to be with the upper echelon.”

“Some of these [upper echelon] schools are under capacity. So many schools are closer than the ones they are redistricting these students to, and they [the school district] is pretending they are doing something safe. They are just shifting kids from place to place,” she said.

 

The plans:

Elementary school (ES) Option No. 1

A – Redistrict 364 Briar Vista ES students to Fernbank ES. All neighborhood students go to Fernbank, but Montessori and Regional Special Ed. students would remain.

Reconstitute Briar Vista ES as a new Cross Keys elementary school.

B – Redistrict 269 Montclair ES students to Briar Vista ES.

C – Redistrict 61 Woodward ES students to Briar Vista ES. 330 new students at Briar Vista ES.

D – Redistrict 282 Dresden ES students to former International Student Center school.

E – Redistrict 283 Cary Reynolds students to Dresden ES.

 

Elementary (ES) Option No. 2

A – Redistrict 364 Briar Vista ES students to Fernbank ES.

All neighborhood students go to Fernbank, but Montessori and Regional Special Ed. students would remain.

Reconstitute Briar Vista ES as a new Cross Keys elementary school.

B – Redistrict 269 Montclair ES students to Briar Vista ES.

C – Redistrict 61 Woodward ES students to Briar Vista ES. 330 new students at Briar Vista ES.

D – Redistrict 101 Montclair ES students to former International Student Center school.

E – Redistrict 292 Dresden ES students to former International Student Center school.

New K-5 school at former ISC with 393 students.

F – (2017) Redistrict 383 Cary Reynolds ES students to former Warren Tech as new K-5 school.

Move Warren Tech program to vacant Terry Mill facility.

Note: Cary Reynolds ES will need to wait for relief until the 2017-18 school year.

 

Elementary (ES) Option No. 3

A – Redistrict 127 Montclair ES to new former International Student Center school.

B – Redistrict 269 Dresden ES students to new former International Student Center school.

New K-5 school at former ISC with 396 students

C – Redistrict 154 Cary Reynolds students to Dresden ES

 

High School Option No. 1

Redistrict 164 Cross Keys HS students to Chamblee HS.

These are the closest students to Chamblee HS.

First middle and high school split feeder in DeKalb County.

 

High School Option No. 2

Redistrict 180 Cross Keys HS students to Chamblee HS.

These are the students furthest away from Cross Keys HS.

First middle and high school split feeder in DeKalb County.

DeKalb staff will present its recommendations on Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at Cross Keys High School. Online comments can be made by clicking here.

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