The city of Dunwoody stopped construction of portable classrooms at Dunwoody High School on July 8 after officials said the DeKalb County School District placed the trailers over the Fourth of July holiday week without the proper permit.
Community Development Director Richard McLeod said the stop-work order was issued Monday morning because the work was done without receiving a land disturbance permit as required by city ordinance and a 2017 memorandum of understanding agreement between the city and the school district.
“We told the workers to leave the site,” McLeod said. “They don’t have a land disturbance permit. No work is going to be going on.”
The installation of several trailers, or portable classrooms, happened over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to city officials. One trailer on cement blocks is standing on a sidewalk.
DeKalb Schools has been adding trailers to DHS to deal with overcrowding at the school for some time, causing controversy between local parents, city officials and school administrators.
Last summer, the school district constructed a portable quad classroom facility that includes four classrooms in one structure. As part of building that quad, water and sewer infrastructure was constructed so the school district could add two more quad classroom buildings when necessary.
It was those two quad classroom buildings that were constructed between July 1-5, according to a DeKalb Schools spokesperson. The school district also said in a statement that the city told administrators in late May that a land disturbance permit for installation of the new trailers was required.
Before now, the city has never required the school district obtain a LDP to construct trailers, according to DeKalb Schools. The application for the LDP was submitted May 30.
DeKalb Schools applied for a land disturbance permit to the city about three weeks ago to install more portable classrooms at the high school, McLeod said. But after review of the application, city officials had questions about erosion control and the size of trees that were to be cut down to make room for the new trailers. There were also questions about the site plan submitted, including setbacks of property lines for the new trailers.
The questions were sent back to the school district to answer before the permit would be issued. But the city never received a response to their questions, so no permit was granted, McLeod said.
“We had not heard from them … until this weekend when the trailers popped up,” he said. “Even if they had gotten their plan approved, what they put out there is not according to the plan … one of the trailers is on a sidewalk.”
Installing portable classroom units on concrete blocks is standard, according to DeKalb Schools. However, these units are not fully installed and when completed they will be lowered and there will be a concrete footer and the concrete block bases will be coated with a bonding material, DeKalb Schools said.
City Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said she intends to bring up the issue at the July 8 City Council meeting.
“It is disappointing that the school system and its contractor tried to take advantage of a holiday weekend to ignore the requirements of the city,” Deutsch said.
“The school system shouldn’t be surprised that city officials were paying attention,” she said. “We have been asking consistently for the last few weeks about plans for the trailers. I want us to be able to work together with the school system for the benefit of our students. But being straightforward and forthcoming is required for such a partnership to work.”
To get the stop-work order lifted, DeKalb Schools must answer the questions about the LDP application it has submitted and get it approved, McLeod said.
DeKalb Schools says it is working with the city to restore work at the site.
This story has been updated with comments from DeKalb County Schools.