Atlanta Public Schools drops redistricting plans after student protest

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring offers her thoughts on the Advanced Placement African American Studies class she just observed at Maynard Jackson High School on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. Herring announced in a letter Wednesday that the school district will not propose redistricting plans for three schools. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring offers her thoughts on the Advanced Placement African American Studies class she just observed at Maynard Jackson High School on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. Herring announced in a letter Wednesday that the school district will not propose redistricting plans for three schools. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Just days after students at Midtown High School protested an Atlanta Public Schools plan to rezone more than 200 kids to another school due to overcrowding, the district has withdrawn the plan there and at two other schools.

APS sent a survey to Midtown families last week that detailed the two options officials were considering to ease the congestion at the high school. One proposal would redesign the existing school and crack down on residency verification without rezoning students. The second option would redraw attendance lines, shifting more than 200 Midtown students to Booker T. Washington High School, about 5 miles west.

Some students were upset by the second option, which they said would have mostly affected Black students. About 200 Midtown students held a peaceful demonstration Friday morning in Piedmont Park, across the street from the school. An Instagram account called midtown_protest2023 announced students would hold a sit-in Wednesday to protest the redistricting plans.

“WE DID IT YALL!,” the Instagram account posted Wednesday.

In a memo to staff and parents Wednesday, Atlanta Superintendent Lisa Herring said the district is no longer considering plans to rezone any students. The school board had been scheduled to vote on plans to ease overcrowding at three schools in May. In addition to Midtown High, Maynard Jackson High School and Woodson Park Academy are also over capacity.

“We heard one major theme across all clusters: Our communities do not want us to rezone, especially if we have not exhausted all other options,” Herring said in the notice. “Therefore, APS plans to develop and implement the non-rezoning scenario … to address overcrowding at Jackson HS, Midtown HS, and Woodson Park Academy.”

An APS spokesperson said Herring declined additional comment.

That scenario includes a residency verification process, which began earlier this month for Midtown High. The district says it will conduct analyses to determine how to use existing space at the three schools.

Midtown parent Sara Zeigler said the district’s decision not to rezone students doesn’t solve the issue of overcrowding at some schools and under-utilization at others.

“We have to come together as an entire city of Atlanta public school system community to really do the work and figure out what’s going to elevate the experience for all of our kids no matter where they live,” she said.

Washington parent Sherry Bellille doesn’t think the rezoning plan should be tabled. At the same time, Bellille said, APS should invest part of its $1.4 billion budget in schools like Washington so families will want to send their kids there.

“We need the resources to be able to compete and bring people into our cluster,” she said. “We’re the best-kept secret in Atlanta. We want other parents to know Washington is a destination for learning. Give us the resources. We can do it.”

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