Atlanta school board votes to close elementary school

Thomasville Heights Elementary School will not reopen for the 2022-2023 school year. (Johnny Crawford/AJC file photo 2012)

Credit: Johnny Crawford

Credit: Johnny Crawford

Thomasville Heights Elementary School will not reopen for the 2022-2023 school year. (Johnny Crawford/AJC file photo 2012)

Days after families began moving out of the condemned Forest Cove apartments, the Atlanta school board voted to close the nearby school that enrolls many students who live in the complex.

Thomasville Heights Elementary School will not reopen this fall. The board voted 6-2 Monday, following a third public hearing, to rezone Thomasville Heights students to Slater Elementary School, about 3½ miles away.

Board members Tamara Jones and Erika Mitchell voted no. Michelle Olympiadis was not present.

District officials recommended Thomasville Heights’ closure because the school’s enrollment is projected to plummet once families leave Forest Cove. About three-quarters of Thomasville Heights’ 235 students live at the subsidized housing complex in southeast Atlanta. The complex is in poor condition and is slated for a court-ordered demolition by mid-September.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring called the closure temporary and said she expects Thomasville Heights will reopen when the apartments are redeveloped and residents move back in.

“Our ultimate goal is for our families to return and upon returning be able to return back to Thomasville Heights Elementary School,” Herring said.

The city, the property owner and other agencies are working to find new homes for Forest Cove families facing displacement. The mayor’s office announced last week that the first four families had started to move out.

Several APS parents and residents who oppose the school board’s decision said they want more information.

“Please be more transparent and please engage with me,” said Bernard Arnold, who leads the PTA at Slater.

Monique Nunnally, who chairs the education committee for a southeast Atlanta neighborhood planning unit, said the community wants more dialogue about the school’s closure. They also want to make sure the vacant building doesn’t become blighted.

“We say ‘temporary’ but we have not established a plan of action of what happens next,” she said.

Board member Katie Howard, whose district includes Thomasville Heights, said redevelopment of the apartments will likely take longer than a year. She said it’s important that families have time to prepare for next school year.

A temporary closure, while difficult, provides the most stability and continuity for students, she said.

“We know that a school cannot offer a high level of experience for just 62 children, which is the number of students that would be remaining from the Thomasville Heights neighborhood without Forest Cove families,” Howard said.

Those remaining Thomasville Heights families who are not displaced by Forest Cove’s demolition can apply to transfer to another Atlanta school with an opening instead of going to Slater. Herring said APS extended the deadline until June 17 to apply for such administrative transfers for families impacted by the closure.

APS signed a contract in 2016 with the nonprofit Purpose Built Schools Atlanta to run Thomasville Heights, Slater and several other low-performing district schools.