The DeKalb County Board of Education received a redistricting plan Monday that would move a popular magnet program from near Dunwoody and move fourth and fifth graders from Dunwoody Elementary School to the site of the to-be-moved magnet.
DeKalb Schools’ latest round of Musical Chairs, approved Monday evening during the board’s monthly meeting, will see Dunwoody Elementary, as well as Cary Reynolds and Dresden elementary schools, remove portable classrooms and allow all the students there to be taught in-house for the first time in more than a decade.
“We’ve been here before,” Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson said Monday afternoon in her first presentation to the school board. “And we can get through it.”
According to the plan, generated over the last three months by a group of more than a dozen district employees led by Tyson, the Kittredge Magnet School would move from its current home at Nancy Creek, 1663 East Nancy Creek Drive NE in Brookhaven, to the former John Lewis Elementary School at 2383 North Druid Hills Road in Atlanta. The Nancy Creek facility will become home to Dunwoody Elementary School’s fourth and fifth graders. Tyson said the plan’s goals are to begin providing relief to overcrowded schools in several school clusters — elementary, middle and high schools in the same attendance zone — while populating the new Doraville United Elementary School and committing to a comprehensive master plan for alleviating the overcrowding. Doraville United is scheduled to open in August and can hold up to 950 students.
The moves don’t sit right with some parents, who said they felt parents were not consulted enough by district officials for the initial presentation to the school board in January. Hela Sheth said the final plan appeared online Friday with no warning.
“I’m shocked by the process by which the system proposed and I’m disappointed they’re voting on this tonight, especially with no community input or feedback,” Sheth said Monday, adding that she participated in several community input meetings to address overcrowding last fall. “It seems very knee-jerk, hasty and half-baked.”
District officials received letters from parent advisory councils from Ashford Park, Dunwoody, Huntley Hills, Montgomery elementary schools and the Kittredge Magnet School saying the plan was hastily done with no imput from those in the affected communities.
Another Dunwoody Elementary parent, Kim Schneller, said during public comment at the board meeting Monday afternoon that while she was pleased that the plan would alleviate the school’s overcrowding, she had concerns about seemingly little affect on neighboring schools and their overcrowding issues. She asked the board to delay the redistricting moves until plan implementation details are made public.
“I don’t know whether or not it’s a good plan,” she said. “The Dunwoody and Chamblee communities have spent five months on this, given our all and left it on the field.
“On Friday, we were thrown a curveball.”
Parents have suggested using empty seats in the new Austin Elementary School to help with overcrowding, too. Dan Drake, the district’s interim chief operations officer, said there were no empty seats expected when the school opens. About 750 students are expected from current enrollment. Another 102 would come from Dunwoody Elementary, and the district expects a 100-student bump from different variables — including the fact that parents often jump at the chance for their children to attend a new school.
“Just because there’s this brand new beautiful building, parents find a way to have their children attend,” Drake said.
Tyson said during the committee meeting earlier in the day that some concerns she’s heard from parents during the process reminded her of when Dunwoody Elementary School was set to open a decade ago, with enrollment projections not filling the school. It opened as a grade four and five academy instead.
Tyson said she’s fielded emails and phone calls from a “silent majority” of residents who appear to support her initial redistricting plan. Then, she read from a letter she said came from a parent whose children attended that first iteration of Dunwoody Elementary. The parent mentioned that the students from those first few years are now attending college at many known schools, including the University of Georgia.
“Change is hard. Change is necessary. But our children are resilient,” Tyson said. “You came together 10 years ago. You can now.”
Related to the plan, the district’s plan to address cost overruns in its Education-Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V program now earmarks $35 million for a new elementary school in the Dunwoody school zone.
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