Atlanta superintendent wants new elementary school in Midtown area

The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday will consider opening a new elementary school in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood in 2023.

The proposal is aimed at addressing overcrowding concerns at Midtown-area campuses. It would rezone an estimated 857 students from three schools and create a new kindergarten through fifth grade site at the former Inman Middle School.

District officials have been studying building needs since 2019. Several ideas surfaced for how to best use the old middle school building, dividing parents and neighborhoods over the last few months.

”Our engagement provided a deeper understanding of the impact these decisions have on each school, neighborhood, family and student,” states Superintendent Lisa Herring’s proposal. “In developing these APS recommendations, we focused on our shared values of excellence, equity and engagement.”

The recommendation would move nearly 500 Springdale Park Elementary School students to the new elementary school. Another 171 students who live in the Inman Park neighborhood would shift from Mary Lin Elementary to Springdale Park.

As a result, Springdale Park’s enrollment would drop from 801 to an estimated 484 students. The new school at the Inman location would enroll an estimated 677 students, which includes some students who would be rezoned there from Morningside Elementary.

The recommendation alarmed some Springdale Park families who had urged the district to turn the Inman site into a second Springdale Park campus that served older grades but maintained a unified culture and administration.

On Friday, the school’s parent-teacher organization sent an email with the nearly all-caps subject line: “ACTION NEEDED - SPARK is being REZONED.”

Parents Amy Harward and Shannon Gaggero said the recommendation would gut their school. They want the board to reject it, in part, because they think the community hasn’t had time to provide input on this specific proposal.

“People just do not know, and that is not fair to be making a decision without educating a community that is going to be so deeply affected,” Gaggero said.

Since it opened in 2009, Springdale Park has become one of the district’s highest performing schools. Launching another school so soon imposes a burden on the community and creates instability for staff, the parents said.

The superintendent’s recommendation would allow first, second and third graders to remain at their current school until they finish elementary school, if they provide transportation.

Other parents are pleased with the recommendation. Residents in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood had opposed other rezoning scenarios because they said it would have reduced the diversity of students attending Morningside Elementary. Under the new plan, children living in Piedmont Heights will remain at Morningside.

Morningside parent Shraddha Srivastav Strennen believes the recommendation makes the most sense for the community.

“We’re very grateful,” she said. “They listened to us.”

The board is expected to review the plan Monday and hold a final vote in June.