More trailers will be installed at Dunwoody High School’s campus this summer to deal with continued overcrowding, according to DeKalb Schools administrators, and even more trailers are likely in the future.
DeKalb County School District officials gave an update on adding the trailers during a March 29 meeting of the DHS School Council and some 25 other interested parents at the high school.
A new trailer, called a portable quad classroom building, will be placed adjacent to the current portable quad classroom building placed in front of the high school last summer. The new portable quad – four classrooms built together into one structure – is needed to accommodate the school’s growing population. This year’s enrollment at DHS was 1,982 and is expected to grow by 60 students, to a total of 2,042, next year.
The new portable quad classrooms will also be installed with water and sewer infrastructure so a restroom can be included in the new building. The current quad of classrooms at DHS does not have restrooms.
Adding the sewer and water lines for the new portable classrooms will also allow the school district to add two more quads, for a total of eight classrooms, in the future, according to Dan Drake, executive director of Operations for the DeKalb County School District.
“Based on the number of seats over capacity … we are definitely looking at more quads out there,” Drake said. “It’s better to have more than less.”
Drake said enrollment figures at DHS are slightly ahead than anticipated and the need for more trailers is needed for students until the planned expansion that includes a two-story, 29-classroom addition for some $17.7 million is completed in 2022. The school still needs to form a construction council that will include school district officials and parents. Construction for the expansion is slated to begin in 2020 and the portable classrooms will stay onsite until construction is completed.
Bruce Kaminsky, chair of the Dunwoody High School Council, said his son is in a trailer at DHS and he says “they’re fine.”
“I’m trying to put lipstick on a pig,” Kaminsky acknowledged. “What’s going on inside the walls … of the school is all very positive. Nobody wants trailers, but what can we do?
“I would love for the campus to be easier on the eyes … but I never hear the kids complaining,” he added. “It’s the parents who seem to have issues.”
Dunwoody High School’s capacity is for 1,503 students, but the school has been overcrowded for several years, leading to the addition of portable classrooms, or trailers, over the past two years. By 2022, DHS enrollment is projected to be 2,093.
Principal Priscilla Cole said average classrooms include 30 students, with some classes having as many as 36 students. She also said 13 teachers are currently sharing classrooms, which limits teachers in conducting planning for future classes, she said.
The new portable quad building that will be set up this summer will include the cutting down of many trees. Drake said he did not know the number of trees that will be cut down to make room for the trailers but noted the ones that will be cut down are pine trees.
There are limited options on where to put the trailers. Other sites considered were in the school’s parking lot or on the tennis courts. Those ideas were quickly shot down by school staff, Drake said.
When the expansion is completed in four years, and the trailers are removed, it is expected the spots where the trailers are located will be made into a parking lot, Drake said. The school has also been dealing with a severe shortage of parking for students. As part of the expansion to be finished by 2022, a retention pond on campus is also planned to be paved over to create an additional 160 parking spaces.
The quads are expected to be delivered to Dunwoody High School by early June. The clearing of trees and installing water and sewer lines will be done prior to their delivery, Drake explained. The district expects to receive its certificate of occupancy by early July, he added.
Some parents raised concerns that the noise of cutting down trees and installing water and sewer lines could disrupt students still in school. The last day of classes is slated for May 24. Drake said the system would keep that in mind to ensure students are not disrupted, especially during testing.
One woman, who said she has lived in the neighborhood surrounding Dunwoody High School for 40 years, said the school was going to end up looking like “trailer city” while several parents also questioned if current enrollment projects are still good or will enrollment be higher than the school district is anticipating.
Better enrollment estimates are expected in the next few weeks, Drake said. Current projects do include added residential development as well as projections of students now in private school wanting to return to public school and to DHS, he said.
The enrollment numbers at DHS are expected to peak next school year based on enrollment numbers at area middle schools, he added, and the 2,093 students enrolled by 2022 is “still valid,” he said.
But Peachtree Charter Middle School in Dunwoody is expected to get more trailers next year as well to handle its overcrowding, he added. One parents asked if there was some disconnect between enrollment projections and reality, but Drake said the school district expects falling numbers at middle schools, meaning fewer students at the high school.
Total cost to purchase and install the new portable trailers at DHS, including water and sewer infrastructure, is expected to be approximately $350,000, Drake said.