Atlanta school board votes to open new Midtown elementary school

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

A new Atlanta elementary school serving students from Midtown neighborhoods will open next year, despite opposition from some parents.

The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday voted 7-1 to launch the K-5 school at the former Inman Middle School site and rezone roughly 850 students from three other elementary schools.

Michelle Olympiadis, who represents affected areas in east Atlanta on the board, cast the lone no vote. She cited concerns about how the district engaged with parents in the decision-making process.

“We have neighborhood against neighborhood and neighbor against neighbor,” she said.

Superintendent Lisa Herring, who recommended the plan to alleviate overcrowding concerns at certain campuses, said officials reviewed several options and brought forward the one in the best interest of children.

”This is not an easy discussion or a decision, but it is one that we believe is the right one,” she said.

ExploreAPS officials say new school still best option for Midtown overcrowding

Springdale Park Elementary School will see the biggest change because of the rezoning. Its parent-teacher organization recently voted 117-7 to reject the APS plan and to urge the board to vote no.

Parent-Teacher Organization President Jason Holmes told the board that parents are concerned with the social, emotional and academic impact to students “who have just experienced unprecedented disruption and COVID learning loss.”

He added: “Instead of prioritizing these concerns, the plan prioritizes secondary concerns like walkability.”

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Nearly 500 Springdale Park students would move to the new school, while 171 students from Mary Lin Elementary School would go to Springdale Park, according to APS. Mary Lin’s parent-teacher group objected to the attendance zone changes.

About 170 students at Morningside Elementary School would shift to the new school, in addition to other smaller attendance area changes. The changes would cut Springdale Park’s projected enrollment from 801 students to just 484. About 663 students are expected to attend the new school.

Current third and fourth grade students in the impacted schools would be permitted to remain where they are, so long as families provide their own transportation.

Some parents felt unheard by the board and administrators. Springdale Park parent Shannon Gaggero turned her back to the board to address her fellow parents during Monday’s meeting.

”This board and this administration should not get to check a community engagement box. We, the community, say when they’ve done their job sufficiently, and they have not,” she said.

Monday’s vote was years in the making. In 2019, APS began work on a facilities master plan, a document intended to guide district decision-making regarding building use over the next decade.

By last spring, consultants from the Atlanta-based firm Sizemore Group had offered a couple of ideas to ease overcrowding concerns. Both proposals called for repurposing the former Inman Middle School building to add more space for elementary students. But it was immediately clear that neither proposal would satisfy all parents.

One idea was to create a secondary campus for Springdale Park Elementary School by moving the school’s older grades into the Inman facility. The other option was to open a new kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school at the Inman site.

APS administrators brought that proposal to the board in May, when the board voted 5-4 to give preliminary support and delayed a final vote until Monday’s meeting months later.

APS aims to hire a principal for the new school next month so that leader has most of this academic year to plan for the school’s launch.

Board member Erika Mitchell was not present for Monday’s vote.