APS proposes spending over $90 million to ease Grady cluster crowding

Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen will recommend that more than $90 million in projects to ease crowding in schools feeding into Grady High School be among the first to be funded under the district’s next special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, she told parents at a public meeting Thursday.

While dozens of schools elsewhere in Atlanta are less than half full, many Grady cluster schools are over capacity and have crammed students into every conceivable classroom-like space and used trailers to contain the overflow.

Under Carstarphen’s proposal, APS would expand the Grady High School campus, turn the closed Howard High School into a middle school, convert Inman Middle School into an elementary school and build new sports practice fields on the former Walden Middle School campus. APS would also renovate Morningside Elementary School.

The proposal is the latest idea in years of debate about how to ease crowding at Inman and other schools. Past proposals to reassign Grady cluster students to under-enrolled schools in other areas died amid intense opposition from parents.

“This has been a long time in the making,” Carstarphen told parents Thursday. “I believe other communities will understand why we need to start these projects as early as possible.”

Howard opened in 1924 as a segregated elementary school for African American students and was later converted to a high school. Martin Luther King Jr. attended Howard when it was an elementary school.

Howard closed in 1976. In recent years, alumni and Old Fourth Ward neighbors have urged APS to renovate and reopen the school.

The next SPLOST could go before voters in the spring, though many elements of the election have yet to be determined.

If voters approve the SPLOST, the slate of Grady projects could be completed by 2023, Carstarphen said.

Kathy Hart’s daughter is a seventh grader at Inman and will graduate before all the Grady cluster projects would be finished. Still, Hart said Carstarphen’s proposal seems to provide a long-term solution for the area.

“You need to spend the money where people are moving,” she said.

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Read the district presentation on the Grady cluster plans:

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