APS officials say new school still best option for Midtown overcrowding

Atlanta Public School officials are largely sticking by their plan to open an elementary school and rezone three other Midtown campuses after a month of public input that included loud opposition from some families.

District officials this week presented the latest version of their recommendation to open a kindergarten through fifth grade school at the former Inman Middle School site.

The proposal is the first to emerge from a facility master planning process that began in 2019, work aimed at finding the best use for APS properties. While the district’s enrollment is expected to increase only slightly over the next decade, several Midtown-area schools face capacity issues now. Various ideas for how to ease that overcrowding have divided parents whose children attend some of Atlanta’s highest-performing schools.

More than 800 critics of the plan signed a petition urging a no vote on a new school. They want to instead repurpose the Inman space as a secondary Springdale Park Elementary School campus. They say their plan would lessen student disruption.

Springdale Park’s projected enrollment would drop from 801 students to 484 as a result of launching a new school and redrawing attendance lines.

In a 5-4 preliminary vote last month, the board signaled support for the proposed new school. But they pushed back the final vote from June until August to give more time for public input. The recommendation presented to the board this week is largely the same, dismaying some parents who hoped the extra time would lead to major revisions.

“We’re continuing to recommend a new K-5 elementary school for the Midtown cluster. We’re recommending small changes to boundaries and addressing concerns as part of the planning process,” said Travis Norvell, the district’s chief strategy officer.

He said efforts to engage families over the past month “provided us an opportunity to explore more deeply the recommendation, make some changes but more importantly better prepare for its effective implementation if approved in August.”

Springdale Park parent Alicia Cardillo told board members the last few weeks of discussions felt like “a complete sham.”

“I don’t feel heard. We are begging for stability,” she said.

District officials say a new elementary school creates more long-term stability and increases walkability to schools.

APS officials did propose two minor changes to the plan. Instead of moving an estimated 184 Morningside Elementary School students to the new school, the updated recommendation would shift only 170. Approximately 14 students who live on Berwick and Northview avenues and part of Courtenay Drive would remain at Morningside because their homes are within a mile of that school.

The second proposed change would impact vacant property on Cheshire Bridge Road where a 175-unit apartment complex is planned. The site would be zoned for the cluster of schools that feed into North Atlanta High School instead of staying in the Midtown group of schools.

The proposal still moves an estimated 493 Springdale Park students to the new elementary school. It also still calls for 171 Mary Lin Elementary students to shift to Springdale Park.

“You have lost the trust of a huge number of Springdale Park families, and I do not say that lightly,” said parent Laura Strong.

Norvell said APS will use the time before the final vote in August to study a grandfathering provision to allow some students to finish their elementary years at their current school. If approved, the new school would open in fall 2023.