These are the questions that DeKalb needs to answer in this controversy:
Are the troubling conditions at Druid Hills High School unique or are other schools also in this bad of shape?
Is this a problem of aging buildings or a lack of regular upkeep and maintenance? If the latter, who is at fault and how can this be fixed quickly not only at Druid Hills but at all the schools with unsafe conditions?
Why does it take a viral video to spur action? Watson-Harris said that the disrepair at Druid Hills was “long known about.” If that’s the case, why didn’t the school board and district address it earlier?
It’s important to note the background here. In August of 2020, DeKalb Schools commissioned Perkins & Will, an architecture and design firm, to conduct an analysis of its facilities and create a 10-year comprehensive master plan. The firm listed Druid Hills High as a priority and estimated the remodeling and modernization cost at $52 million. That estimate has since grown.
Three DeKalb high schools have lower facility condition scores than Druid Hills, which earned a 69 on a 100-point scale. Parents at Druid Hills contend the score is boosted by the 88 awarded to the new science building. Three of the buildings in the high school complex scored in the 50s.
At a meeting in February, the DeKalb board voted 4-2 to remove the school from its list of construction projects, citing the now $60 million estimate for upgrading the crumbling school. The removal of Druid Hills from the list led to objections from outgoing board member Marshall Orson, who represents the area. In a statement this week, Orson said, “There is no question in my mind that the students of DHHS have not been treated fairly nor equitably. The condition of the facility is unconscionable.”
The student video confirms conditions are unconscionable. What DeKalb taxpayers ought to ascertain is whether they’re unusual. And, if they’re not, they ought to ask why district and board leaders would allow such reprehensible conditions to fester for so long.