DeKalb, Atlanta schools annexation fight spills into second court case

A deepening conflict between two neighboring school districts over the City of Atlanta’s expanding boundaries has spilled once again into a court case.

DeKalb County School District and Atlanta Public Schools are battling over which school system should serve the 744 acres in DeKalb County that the Atlanta City Council approved annexing in December. The city's annexation of the Emory University area included moving the property into the Atlanta school district.

DeKalb schools have opposed that move in court, seeking to retain an area that officials said represents more than $2 million in school tax revenue and roughly 10 students. In June, DeKalb schools obtained an injunction that keeps the property in its district until further court action.

Now, DeKalb schools wants to intervene in a different case that APS filed against the city over another Atlanta annexation, this one in Fulton County.

In legal filings, DeKalb school attorneys contend that APS filed the Fulton County case in July as an "attempted end-run" around the injunction DeKalb won in the Emory annexation case.

“APS seeks a broad advisory judicial ruling conferring upon it the power to legally compel the city to expand APS’ boundaries to include all past and future annexations,” DeKalb schools attorneys wrote in Aug. 13 court filings.

Emory University, the CDC and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are being annexed into the city of Atlanta. The city’s 744-acre expansion grows it eastward into DeKalb County.

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The Atlanta City Council voted in December to annex property in the Fulton Industrial District into the city but leave it within Fulton County Schools instead of moving it into APS. That Fulton property is not currently taxable, and no students live there.

APS sued the city over that annexation, arguing the Atlanta school district should expand alongside the new city boundaries.

DeKalb schools have asked the court to let it intervene in the Fulton case, stating that the city and APS are aligned against DeKalb’s interests and that the outcome could affect the Emory case.

“DCSD faces potential ruin if APS can legally mandate its expansion ever time the city annexes territory from unincorporated DeKalb County. That is why DCSD must become party to this case,” the district stated in court filings.

A spokesman for APS declined to comment on a pending legal matter. A city spokesman did not respond to an email offering a chance to comment.

In a written statement, DeKalb schools said its leaders “take seriously our responsibility to protect the resources provided for our students.”

“The inclusion of APS in the annexation unnecessarily siphons millions of dollars per year, in perpetuity, that support the teaching and learning opportunities our students deserve. Our attempts to resolve this gross inequity through dialogue have gone unanswered, and DCSD will explore any and all paths to secure and protect the resources of our community,” the DeKalb statement said.

According to court filings, the city and APS have agreed to an “expedited schedule” to resolve the Fulton annexation case. The city is expected to file its response to the case by the end of this week.