Residents largely approved of the revised Brookhaven school redistricting plan presented at a Nov. 27 meeting, saying it better keeps together key neighborhoods and would successfully address overcrowding at some schools.
“They listened from the last meeting,” one resident said. “I’m really pleasantly surprised.”
The meeting was the final public input session for the DeKalb County School District’s redistricting process to fill the new John Lewis Elementary and relieve overcrowding at Brookhaven schools. The plan presented would move 607 students to different schools.
Lewis Elementary has over 500 open seats, vacancies that the school district hopes to use to curb overcrowding at nearby schools in the Cross Keys cluster. Named for the congressman and civil rights leader, the school is currently operating in a temporary location on North Druid Hills Road and will open in a new building on Skyland Drive in August 2019.
Most redistricting changes in the staff-recommended plan would move students to Lewis Elementary, except for 62 students that would move from Briar Vista to Woodward schools and three from Fernbank to Montclair schools. Moving to Lewis Elementary would be 22 students from Ashford Park, 93 from Montclair, 210 from Fernbank and 195 from Woodward.
The school district has held two prior meetings, gathering input and presenting two options residents generally liked, but some questioned the methodology behind some choices and expressed concern about longer travel distances and splitting up neighborhoods.
The single staff-recommended plan came out of that feedback and was presented at the final public meeting. The superintendent will now adjust the plan based on further input and submit it to the school board for approval, scheduled for February 2019.
The public can still provide input through an online survey and at future school board meetings.
The redistricting changes would go into effect when the school year begins and Lewis Elementary opens in the fall of 2019.
The main points of the plan were presented by Hans Williams, the district’s director of planning, before the residents split off into breakout sessions to provide feedback, which was generally positive.
The plan would completely relieve Montclair and Woodward overcrowding, and partly alleviate Ashford Park Elementary. Dresden Elementary is not addressed in this plan.
“I think they achieved the number one goal, which is addressing the overcrowding,” one resident said in a breakout session.
Residents supported that the revised plan seems to keep more neighborhoods together and the chunks moving are more unified instead of pieced together.
“One of the previous options carved out a portion of the neighborhood. I appreciate that this plan is keeping Ashford Park together,” another said.
The changes would allow the district to remove 17 “portable classrooms,” or trailers, which one resident said is a “huge pro.”
Others said the district seems to have worked out a better way to address traffic patterns.
“It seems to be more efficient with how far people have to travel up and down Clairmont Road and Buford Highway,” a resident said. “It seems to minimize that as much as possible.”
Under this plan, Lewis Elementary would be at 94 percent capacity, which one resident said may mean the redistricting “doesn’t go far enough.” Dan Drake, the district’s interim chief operating officer, said that the district needs that buffer to ensure it doesn’t go over capacity and need portable classrooms.
Nearby middle and high schools are also mildly affected. Eight students would move from Chamblee Middle to Sequoyah Middle. Fourteen would move from Chamblee High to Cross Keys High. These moves would keep each student moving from elementary to high school in the set feeder patterns, Drake said.
These changes would slightly increase the utilization of Sequoyah Middle and Cross Keys High, which are both over capacity. However, new schools are in the pipeline to address their overcrowding.
Students who would move and are rising into the final grade at each school would be able to stay with no transportation provided, the district said.
Since the middle and high changes would increase the overcrowding, one resident said that keeping every student on the exact feeder pattern may not be necessary and the district should take a second look at that practice.
He said the district should be better at communicating the coming new schools, which includes the new Cross Keys High and the current high school converting to a middle school, and how it would alleviate that problem.
Nothing is in the pipeline for Ashford Park Elementary, which would still be over capacity by more than 100 students, but Drake said it is likely to become part of the Cross Keys cluster once the new middle and high schools open. The school is currently part of the Chamblee cluster.
Addressing overcrowding at Dresden Elementary, which also part of the Cross Keys cluster, will come in 2019, ahead of the opening of Cross Keys North Elementary, a working name.
For more information, visit dekalbschools.org/redistricting.