Atlanta Public Schools to push back meetings on facilities master plan

Atlanta Public Schools will delay restarting its facilities master planning process until next month.

The district initially scheduled and publicized two meetings for December — a school board session and a community meeting — to review the development of the facilities master plan. That document will guide decisions over the next decade about which schools may need to be expanded, merged or closed based on enrollment trends.

But officials recently announced they will postpone those meetings until January to allow more time for consultants and district leaders to prepare.

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“We are receiving new, updated information that will help us with facilities master planning within the next couple of weeks so we want to make sure we’re working with the latest data on that,” said board Chair Jason Esteves at a recent meeting.

The district planned to restart the planning work with at a Dec. 13 community meeting. That session has now been moved to 6 p.m. Jan. 25. It will be held virtually.

“The informational meeting will share the background of the work to date, current data enrollment, estimated future enrollment and the potential impact those projections have on school buildings,” said Superintendent Lisa Herring at a recent meeting.

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The board also rescheduled a December meeting it planned to host for Jan. 20.

The planning effort dates back to June 2019, when the board chose the Atlanta-based firm Sizemore Group to create the guide and conduct a demographic study at a cost of $900,000.

Leaders expected it would take 18 months, but the work stopped for a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials said at the time that they were unsure how the pandemic would impact Atlanta’s population and student numbers and wanted more time to monitor those trends. Enrollment forecasts will be used to determine which schools are expected to be over or under capacity.

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In October, the board agreed to increase the amount of the Sizemore contract, up to $1.2 million.

APS documents indicate that the extra cost is due to the additional work required to restart and complete the project. That work includes evaluating new Census data and “the consequences of any emerging trends that may have an impact on long term enrollment projections,” the documents state.

APS still expects to present options for school building changes in March, with the board adopting the final version of the plan in June.