DeKalb school board plans to replace several schools

Several DeKalb County schools, including Druid Hills High, are slated for renovations in the coming years under the district's new master plan. But board members still have questions for district staff about which projects are coming first. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

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Several DeKalb County schools, including Druid Hills High, are slated for renovations in the coming years under the district's new master plan. But board members still have questions for district staff about which projects are coming first. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

The DeKalb County Board of Education began approving the first of many projects under its now-finalized 10-year master plan, paving the way for several elementary schools to be torn down and replaced and one high school to undergo renovations.

District staff has been working for months on a roadmap for the next decade that aims to address overcrowding and underutilization of schools, expand academic offerings and upgrade outdated facilities.

But at a meeting last week, the board still expressed hesitation over the use of funds and the timing of certain projects.

ExploreDeKalb school district unveils long-term plan to address overcrowding, underuse

“I want this Comprehensive Master Plan to happen,” said board member Anna Hill. “I want to make sure we’re being very intentional about it.”

The board did not have to vote on the plan itself but will vote on individual projects as they come up.

They approved a resolution on Friday about the district’s intention to tear down and replace several schools: Dresden Elementary, Idlewood Elementary, Jolly Elementary, Sequoyah Middle and Stoneview Elementary. The Cross Keys High facility is also slated for extensive renovation.

The projects are largely funded from a special sales tax for education called E-SPLOST. DeKalb voters in November approved a five-year extension of the existing tax, which is expected to bring in more than $700 million.

Druid Hills High is due for a major renovation, but was removed from the resolution after some board members questioned why the district’s plan to add early learning centers for 3- and 4-year-olds wasn’t also included.

ExploreMore news about DeKalb schools

“I think about when we talked about the disparities that are going on in this district — about our little boys and girls that cannot read on grade level — and that is not on this resolution to move forward, now. And a major renovation is,” said board member Diijon DaCosta. “That’s what I don’t understand.”

Some board members, including Marshall Orson, said it’s vital that the renovations at Druid Hills High get underway as soon as possible because of the condition of the current facility.

“I strongly believe in our early learning centers, but the notion that we would further defer fixing something that is now a 95-year-old building … we wouldn’t do that anywhere else,” Orson said.

The resolution serves as notice to the state that these projects are in the works and sets the district up for future reimbursement, explained Hans Williams, the district’s director of planning. More specific timetables for the projects in the resolution will come later. Early learning centers, currently planned for 2026 or after, are usually housed in existing schools and will not require the construction of new facilities.

ExploreRead the full master plan here

The board plans to talk about Druid Hills High and the early learning centers again at a future meeting. A decision about whether to relocate Cary Reynolds Elementary was postponed as well.

Board members also voted to expand Wadsworth Magnet School from fourth through sixth grades to fourth through eighth grades.

The master plan includes more projects the board has yet to vote on: Consolidation for some elementary schools, the introduction of K-8 schools, more construction projects and new magnet programs are all on the table. The district will seek more public input on those starting in the fall.