Why Drew Charter School admissions changes have parents up in arms

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Why Drew Charter School admissions changes have parents up in arms

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Drew Charter School. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

In a city where less than a third of elementary school students are on grade level, admission to Atlanta’s high-performing Drew Charter School is a golden ticket offering the promise of a better education and a better future.

As competition to get into Drew grows, the school’s board is considering giving children from its gentrifying East Atlanta area a significant edge over children from elsewhere in the city. At the same time, proposed changes could give children from low-income families a better shot at getting in.

It’s an attempt to shape the school’s demographics and make Drew a “neighborhood” school, board members say.

Drew was founded 16 years ago as part of a larger effort to redevelop the East Lake area. Educating children living in the Villages of East Lake, the mixed-income development that replaced a public housing project, is the Drew board’s top priority, said Carol Naughton, chairwoman of the board committee on admissions and enrollment.

Families in the neighborhoods close to Drew come next.

Where does that leave other Atlanta families?

“We’d love to be able to serve everybody, but we don’t have the resources and capacity to do that,” Naughton said. “There have got to be other great schools in Atlanta.”

But the proposed changes has infuriated some current Drew parents, including many who live outside the area around Drew.

“It’s a real betrayal,” said Stacie Davis, who has two children at Drew and a 2-and-1/2-year-old.

Davis’ family lived in Kirkwood, but moved out because they couldn’t afford it any longer. She assumed her youngest child would still be able to attend Drew under a policy that automatically admits the siblings of current students.

The board’s proposal would eliminate that preference. Instead, siblings of current students who live outside the East Lake and Kirkwood neighborhoods would be near the back of the line in Drew’s annual admissions lottery.

The proposed changes are part of an application for a renewed charter from Atlanta Public Schools. Drew’s governing board will discuss them at a meeting tonight.

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