A new Cross Keys High School could be coming to Buford Highway in Brookhaven, a city official says, but DeKalb School officials are being tight-lipped about the possibility.

Brookhaven Councilmember Joe Gebbia confirmed rumors that the DeKalb County School District is looking at property in Brookhaven and along Buford Highway to build a new Cross Keys High School.

“That’s a possibility, and they have the right of eminent domain,” Gebbia said. While he said he does not know of any specific properties being looked at, he said Superintendent Stephen Green has said the district is looking at land adjacent to the current Cross Keys High School, located at 1626 North Druid Hills Road.

These former apartments on Shallowford Drive in Doraville are boarded up and fenced off and awaiting to be torn down to make way for a new DeKalb County Schools 900-seat elementary school set to open in 2020. District officials are reportedly looking to purchase apartment complexes on or near Buford Highway for a new Cross Keys High School. (Dyana Bagby)

Much of the property adjacent to the high school is where apartment complexes are located, including Brookstone Crossing and North Cliff Valley Apartments.

“They’ve not shared what property, but just look at a map,” Gebbia said.

The DeKalb County School District released a simple statement, “The Board of Education is actively searching for properties/sites for the potential location. As this is a real estate matter, the district cannot comment on the specific details or locations until the board votes on the matter.”

Last year, DeKalb Schools announced they purchased the 10-acre Shallowford Gardens apartment complex at 3630 Shallowford Road for $8.2 million. A new 900-seat elementary school is planned for the site opening in 2020.

The new elementary school primarily will alleviate overcrowding at Dresden Elementary in Chamblee and Cary Reynolds Elementary in Doraville. The two schools have a combined 42 portable classroom units on their grounds as well as one restroom unit at each school, according to school officials.

Community activists are concerned the school district will buy another apartment complex to tear down for the new high school and displace many of the students currently attending Cross Keys High School.

DeKalb Schools’ Executive Director of Operations Dan Drake met with members of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, a group advocating for Buford Highway residents, late last year to discuss the process of why the school system purchased the Doraville complex, according to Rebekah Morris, a founder of the organization.

“He definitely confirmed they are looking at apartment properties because they are the biggest blocks of acreage,” she said.

Morris, a former Cross Keys High School teacher, said she understands the need for a new high school due to severe overcrowding that has plagued the Cross Keys cluster for years. But the school district already owns property on Briarcliff Road at the site of the former Briarcliff High School and DeKalb School of the Arts and that would be a better location than tearing down another apartment complex, she said.

Through the Education Special Local Option Sales Tax approved by DeKalb voters in 2016, the school district is planning to spend $561 million on new schools and renovations. An estimated $85 million for a new 2,500-seat Cross Keys High School was announced two years ago. The current high school is set to be renovated for some $10 million into a 1,500-seat middle school. No timelines were established for these to be completed.

Marco Palma, who graduated from Cross Keys High School in 2012, said he also knows a new high school is desperately needed.

If a complex on Buford Highway is purchased and demolished by the school district for a new Cross Keys High School, many people living in the complex likely attend Cross Keys High School now, he explained. And if forced to move, they will most likely have to move out of the area and out of the Cross Keys cluster.

“I feel very conflicted,” he acknowledged. “I realize the importance of a new school. But it does bother me if an apartment complex is torn down it will displace a lot of students who go there now,” he said. “I’m uncertain the new school will serve the community who is using it now.”

When DeKalb Schools forced out residents in the Shallowford Gardens complex in Doraville, residents up to date on their rents were assisted with $2,250 moving bonuses.

Palma said Los Vecinos de Buford Highway encourages apartment residents to have a plan of action in place should their complex be targeted for redevelopment, including a list of other complexes in their price range they can move to or family and friends they can stay with until they can find a new home.

This story has been updated to state the DeKalb County School District owns the Briarcliff site, not the city of Brookhaven.

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