DeKalb Schools to revisit Druid Hills renovations after student video

The DeKalb County school board will revisit a discussion of renovations at Druid Hills High School following a student video showing conditions in the school and a wider push in the community. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

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The DeKalb County school board will revisit a discussion of renovations at Druid Hills High School following a student video showing conditions in the school and a wider push in the community. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The Board of Education will vote on updating the building

The DeKalb County Board of Education will vote again on plans to renovate Druid Hills High School after students posted a video showing the poor conditions of the aging building.

Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris notified the school community in an email this week that Druid Hills was back on the board’s agenda. The board voted to remove the school from a list of construction projects in February, spurring outcry from students and parents.

Watson-Harris acknowledged the students’ recent video, saying it “showed many areas of concern throughout the building that we have long known about and worked to address in meaningful ways.” The school board is set to reconsider the matter on Monday.

The video, which had nearly 18,000 views early Wednesday, shows water-damaged walls and ceilings. Students pointed to walls with flaking paint and complained of mold. One said heavy rains created plumbing issues in an outside area with picnic tables.

“We eat outside here every day,” the student said. “It becomes a problem because we can smell what human waste smells like while we’re trying to eat our lunch.”

Druid Hills was removed from the resolution in February 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.

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DeKalb County School District board member Marshall Orson said in February that it was critical to get renovations of Druid Hills High School underway. (REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA J

DeKalb County School District board member Marshall Orson said in February that it was critical to get renovations of Druid Hills High School underway. (REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA J

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DeKalb County School District board member Marshall Orson said in February that it was critical to get renovations of Druid Hills High School underway. (REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Credit: REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA J

Credit: REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA J

At that meeting, board member Marshall Orson said it was critical for renovations to get underway soon because of the poor conditions at the school.

“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.

Along with general maintenance issues that have built up over time, the school also dealt with flooding last month.

At that time, Watson-Harris said wipes and other items appeared to clog a sewer line and force sewage up the floor drain. Employees cleaned and sanitized the area, and worked late into the night to “mostly neutralize the foul odors.”

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Parents have rallied to convince the school board to commit to renovating Druid Hills. The student video directs viewers to the Druid Hills Parent Teacher Organization, which is organizing speakers for the next few meetings, along with a letter-writing and social media campaign.

Ken Schroeder, a parent of a Druid Hills ninth grade student, suggested board members spend time in the school to see the need for renovation.

“We’d love to show you around,” he said at last month’s board meeting. “We’d love to have you experience what our children experience.”

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Ella Zedd, a senior at Druid Hills, said she feels “gross” in the building.

“It’s hard to learn in that school because of how run down it is,” she said. “It kind of smells like mold in every classroom.”

Ella’s mother, Cathy Zedd, said she’s written to the district about issues in the building since her child was in ninth grade.

“It’s not as if they don’t know about these problems,” she said. “But it’s as if they’re OK with us and the students and the teachers having to be in this dilapidated environment.”

Watson-Harris said renovation plans for the school have been in the works for months.

“It is my expectation that this process will guide our next steps in moving forward with renovations at the school, including addressing immediate needs,” her email said.