“Let me be clear: each and every student in DeKalb County Schools has a right to functioning bathrooms; air-conditioned and heated classrooms; spaces free of mildew, mold, and flooding; and safe conditions to learn,” the letter said. “Each and every facility in DeKalb County Schools should meet that basic standard — at present, Druid Hills High School does not.”
A team from the Department of Education recently visited the school after the video sparked public outcry
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, members were expected to vote on whether to modernize the school — at a cost estimated up to $60 million. Instead, the board changed its overall plan for building repairs across the district, putting smaller but critical updates ahead of select major projects.
“Our goal is to provide equity across the district,” Board Chair Vickie Turner said ahead of the 5-2 vote. Board members Allyson Gevertz and Marshall Orson opposed the decision.
It was the second time since February that the Druid Hills modernization had been passed over.
“In reality, there has been a lack of leadership, responsibility, and urgency regarding this core responsibility of DeKalb County Schools: providing safe and fully functioning facilities,” Woods’ letter said.
Gevertz said she sees the state’s input as positive.
“I’m hoping this can help us revisit what path we want to take at Druid Hills High School,” she said.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Rochelle Bradford, parent of two sophomores at Druid Hills High, said the state school superintendent’s letter echoes concerns the community has long been voicing.
“What we’ve is a lot of talk and not a lot of action,” said Bradford, a member of a task force that has been urging change. “And so the statement means that someone’s paying attention — but then we would like to know how we can work together to make these things actionable.”
Woods said the “perceived lack of funding” cited by the board as a reason not to approve major updates at the school is a nonissue. He mentioned largely unspent pandemic relief funding and the possibility for state reimbursement.
Now, Woods said he won’t recommend the district’s facilities plan for approval until these issues are addressed.
Orson, a longstanding board member who advocated for the modernization of Druid Hills High, said Woods’ decision not to recommend approval of the district’s facility plan puts millions of dollars in reimbursement in jeopardy.
“I think it’s a very serious step,” he said. “The fact that they concluded the conditions are so dire that they needed to use one of the biggest tools they have — which is leverage over our entire local facilities plan — I think is quite noteworthy.”
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Cassidy Alexander covers K-12 education in Cobb and DeKalb counties for the AJC. She previously covered education for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, covering the school district where she grew up. In 2020, she was named Florida's Outstanding New Journalist of the Year.