Midtown parents upset as Atlanta school rezoning plan moves forward

Critics of an Atlanta Public Schools' plan to rezone Midtown-area elementary campuses protest during a Monday, May 2, 2022, board meeting. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

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Critics of an Atlanta Public Schools' plan to rezone Midtown-area elementary campuses protest during a Monday, May 2, 2022, board meeting. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

Atlanta Public Schools’ parents whose children attend some of the district’s highest-performing campuses decried a proposal to open a new elementary school and rezone roughly 850 students.

A couple of dozen parents, with matching orange flowers pinned to their shirts, pushed the school board Monday to reject the superintendent’s recommendation. It calls for launching a kindergarten through fifth grade school at the former Inman Middle School in 2023 and redrawing attendance lines for three Midtown-area elementary sites.

Board members opted to proceed in a 5-4 preliminary vote, but it’s not a done deal. They’ll likely wait until August to take a final vote, delaying what had initially been a June timeline for approval.

Parents blasted the process. They said the district released the latest version of the proposed zoning changes one week ago.

“You are looking at a group of blindsided parents. We’d all rather be home getting our kids fed and in bed,” said Amy Harward, who has a child at Springdale Park Elementary School.

ExploreAtlanta superintendent wants new elementary school in Midtown area

The proposal would move an estimated 500 students from Springdale Park to the new elementary school. When combined with other shifts, Springdale Park’s enrollment would drop from 801 students to an estimated 484.

Two other Midtown-area schools, Mary Lin and Morningside, would see less dramatic drops in their student numbers. First, second and third graders could finish their elementary years at their current school if they provide transportation.

The recommendation sprang from work that began in 2019 to develop a facility master plan to guide building decisions. One goal was to add capacity at bursting Midtown schools.

In March, APS consultants offered two ideas for repurposing the Inman facility to ease overcrowded schools.

In one scenario, enthusiastically touted by some parents, the site would convert into an upper-elementary campus for Springdale Park. In another scenario, it would house a new elementary school, a version of which Superintendent Lisa Herring ultimately backed.

But details of her recommendation dismayed some parents because it contained changes to attendance boundaries.

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Parents opposed to an Atlanta Public Schools' recommendation to rezone Midtown-area schools hold up signs during a Monday, May 2, 2022, board meeting. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Parents opposed to an Atlanta Public Schools' recommendation to rezone Midtown-area schools hold up signs during a Monday, May 2, 2022, board meeting. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Combined ShapeCaption
Parents opposed to an Atlanta Public Schools' recommendation to rezone Midtown-area schools hold up signs during a Monday, May 2, 2022, board meeting. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Caitlin Weaver’s home would be rezoned out of Morningside, a surprise for the mother of an incoming kindergartner.

“The families in our small group of streets learned of it when I and two other friends walked the streets this weekend handing out old-fashioned flyers we had printed ourselves,” she told the board.

Several board members expressed concern that families didn’t have time to become familiar with the plan.

“It really would have been nice to have like more authentic engagement where people could see all the options, have some robust conversation about why one or why not the other,” said board member Michelle Olympiadis, who represents Midtown.

She joined Jason Esteves, Jennifer McDonald and Erika Mitchell in voting against the recommendation. Board Chair Eshé Collins, Vice Chair Aretta Baldon, Cynthia Briscoe Brown, Tamara Jones and Katie Howard supported taking the next step.

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Herring acknowledged the “tension and frustration around engagement.” She said she supports more discussion, but advised making a decision by August or thereabouts. That would give APS time to hire a principal and open the school the following year.

A couple of parents told the board they supported the recommendation. They said it would address school overcrowding while maintaining diversity and making it easier for some students to walk to school.

But most came to voice their displeasure. Many Springdale Park parents wore the bright green of the school’s colors. They held signs that read “Where is the stability?” and “Our kids deserve due diligence.”

“The massive disruption isn’t necessary, and APS students deserve a more thoughtful approach,” said Melissa Clark, a Springdale Park parent.