Redistricting for a new DeKalb County elementary school – temporarily called Cross Keys North – could increase travel times and harm Brookhaven’s sense of community, parents said at Sept. 25 meeting. Parents also strongly opposed changing Doraville’s Oakcliff Elementary from a theme school to a neighborhood school.
The new, 950-seat elementary school will open in August 2020 at 3630 Shallowford Road in an effort to alleviate the overcrowding of surrounding schools. Cross Keys North is a placeholder name. According to the DeKalb County School District, the name should be finalized before the second meeting on Oct. 16.
The surrounding elementary schools currently over capacity are Ashford Park, Cary Reynolds, Huntley Hills and Montgomery. It is possible that students will be redistricted from one overcrowded school to another, not just to the new school, according to DeKalb Schools official Dan Drake. School officials say that students rising into grades 5, 8, 11 and 12 will have the option to continue in their current school, but with no transportation provided.
The first of three public input meetings about the redistricting process of changing school attendance zones was held Sept. 25 at Chamblee Charter High School. During a small group session, parents mainly expressed concern about safety and traffic patterns, and that neighborhoods should stay intact within the new districts.
One parent said that school attendance zones serve to create neighborhoods in Brookhaven.
“When you take kids…and shift them somewhere else, you have broken up a sense of community and what makes our school safe and work,” another parent said.
Parents also expressed concern about potentially longer commute times caused by having to cross major streets such as Buford Highway, Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Windsor Parkway during peak traffic hours.
“The return to neighborhood schools where people do not have to drive far and do not really have to go on huge main roads should really be important,” a parent said.
One of the potential solutions from the district in response to overflowing school populations is to redistrict the Oakcliff Traditional Theme School in Doraville as a neighborhood school, the public school assigned by attendance zones, which would allow more student enrollment but would also take away its theme school title.
There are six theme elementary schools in DeKalb. Oakcliff is the only one located on the north side of the county. Theme schools are schools that offer a certain instructional program and may have admissions criteria. In Oakcliff’s case, parents are required to serve volunteer hours throughout the year. Three elementary schools feed into Oakcliff, including Cary Reynolds, Dresden and Pleasantdale.
Dr. Delores Paschall, the principal of Oakcliff, argued the school should be left as is.
“One of the things misconstrued about our school is that we are the luxury of Doraville. That is not the case,” Paschall said. “We take a lot of kids in who are impoverished. They are malnourished at times and we are providing food and clothes for those kids.”
Parents urged that Oakcliff not be redistricted because it has been a great asset to the DeKalb district, as well as given opportunities to underprivileged students that may have not had the opportunities otherwise.
“We are all here because we want to make our schools better,” one parent said. “If you have a model that works, keep it and try to emulate it. Do not try to dismantle it.”
A second meeting to present alternative redistricting options will be held on Oct. 16, 7-8:30 p.m., at Chamblee Charter High School, 7977 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. A final redistricting plan will be presented at the third meeting on Nov. 19.