DeKalb Schools Supt. Stephen Green discussed several issues at his “On the Scene with Dr. Green” event at Cross Keys High School Nov. 9, including the topics on trailers and new schools to help with overcrowding.
A friendly crowd of some 100 people attended the Q&A session and Green was thanked several times for his leadership in helping DeKalb Schools increase their graduation rates and test scores.
Green answered question from parents and concerned residents for about an hour.
Trailers at schools was one topic that came up a few times. One mother said she has a second grader at Dresden Elementary School in Chamblee who attends class in a trailer. When it rains, she said, the children are forced to move inside the main school building. But in doing so they are forced to walk in the rain.
Green didn’t address fixing the trailer, but said sometimes a temporary canopy or shelter can be installed to protect students from the weather as they walk between their trailers and the main building.
“We’ll evaluate that and see what we can do,” he said.
Another mother said while she was happy with the recent redistricting that helped alleviate some of the overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster, there are still trailers at schools because the main buildings are still too overcrowded. She said her child is also in a trailer at Dresden and when the students in the trailers have to use the restroom, they must walk a long way to the main building and sometimes don’t get to the restroom in time.
Green said this was probably an older trailer that needs to be replaced and newer trailers do have restroom facilities. He said he would document this issue also and “solve the issue one way or another.”
Green was asked by a mother of a fifth grader at Montclair Elementary School in Brookhaven how he could help DREAMers – students who were brought the U.S. illegally as children. Her question was greeted with applause.
“I firmly believe in the DREAM Act [a federal policy that protects undocumented minors from being deported],” he said and that he believes in providing an education to students regardless of their immigrant status, race, creed or sexual orientation.
Rebekah Morris is a former teacher at Cross Keys High School and a co-founder of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, a group for families and individuals who live and work on or near Buford Highway.
She asked Green about the school district’s decision this summer to purchase a Doraville apartment complex so they could tear it down to build a new elementary school as a way to alleviate overcrowding in the Cross Keys Cluster. The purchase displaced some of the very students the school district said it wanted to help, Morris said.
Green said he shared Morris’ concerns, but the school district looks at properties they know are going to be sold anyway.
“Then the question is … is the alternative to create an educational opportunity for the neighborhood and a better outcome than for it to be sold to someone else not for educational purposes,” he said.
The school district also provided compensation to the families, on top of what the developer provided, to help families find a new place to live, Green added.
The school district doesn’t like to enter into these kinds of circumstances, he said, but sometimes to keep schools close to where families live, a difficult and complicated decision must be made.
“And we would do it again if we had to,” he said.
Answering another question about overcrowding that has plagued the Cross Keys Cluster for years, Green said the school district is in negotiations to acquire land near the current Cross Keys High School to locate the new Cross Keys High School. He said he talked Monday, Nov. 6, about the acquisition with the school board. Because negotiations are ongoing, he said he could not reveal more information.
The current CKHS is to be converted into a new middle school.
“We are well on our way to handling the overcrowding,” he said.
The Cross Keys cluster, which includes Cross Keys High School, Sequoyah Middle School and Woodward, Montclair, Dresden, Cary Reynolds and Oakcliff elementary schools, has been overcrowded for years. The cluster has a capacity for 5,700 students, but more than 7,500 were enrolled in 2015, according to school officials.
Last March, the DeKalb County School District approved a redistricting plan for the Cross Keys cluster to address the overcrowding by moving 1,700 students in these schools to other North DeKalb schools.
The Cross Keys cluster is also noted for many students who live along Buford Highway and do not speak English as their first language.