The district will ask state leaders to approve a list of construction projects it hopes to complete in the next five years. They include consolidating Dresden and Cary Reynolds elementary schools into a single new facility.
Credit: Ben Gray
Credit: Ben Gray
It could be a tough sell. Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a letter to the board last month that he wouldn’t recommend the plan for approval by the state Board of Education if conditions weren’t fixed at Druid Hills High.
At risk is millions of dollars that the district will spend on repairs and updates at schools that the state could reimburse.
“We’re in political jeopardy over our overall plans,” board member Marshall Orson said.
Druid Hills High became a focal point for the community and state leaders after students published a video showcasing poor and unsafe conditions at the school, including electrical issues and water damage. Soon after, a facilities team from the Georgia Department of Education visited the school.
The visit prompted Woods to issue a letter chastising the DeKalb school board and calling conditions at the school “unacceptable.” In response, Board Chair Vickie Turner blamed Watson-Harris for the problems.
The facilities plan approved by six of seven board members Monday states that the district intends to modernize Cross Keys High School. Some students rallied outside of the meeting to raise attention to the school’s needs.
In a split vote, the board last month approved a strategy to address critical needs at schools districtwide rather than select major projects. That means smaller, less-costly repairs will be done at Druid Hills High.
That approach has critics.
“Please revisit the decision to approve thousands of Band-Aids,” Steve Langdon said during public comment at the meeting.
But the plan is already in motion. Richard Boyd, interim chief operating officer, said some immediate needs at Druid Hills High are being addressed. They’ve begun putting up signage to create a needed fire lane and will address some drainage issues over the summer, he said.
Susanna McKenna, a junior at Druid Hills High, told the board that people who hear about the school in the news ask whether conditions are really that bad.
“I’m being honest. … It is so much worse,” she said.