Clairemont Elementary is one of several Decatur school that may undergo changes if the school system reconfigures class structure.

At Issue: Should Decatur public schools reconfigure grade structure

Last week a facilities task force recommended to Decatur’s school board that the district reconfigure its grade structure. The task force presented two options, but it was clearly favoring the first, which would create two elementary levels, K-2 and 3-5.

The recommendation adds another layer of complexity to City Schools Decatur’s already tight building schedule. It means one less year for students (and parents) in their neighborhood elementary school. Further, the last time CSD reconfigured, in 2004-05, changing from K-5 to the current K-3/4-5 format divided the city along community and racial lines. At that time two elementary schools were also closed.

As recently as three months ago, CSD Chief Operating Officer Noel Maloof, who also heads up the task force, emphatically told the AJC, “In my mind, changing the format is not on the table. We’ll stick with the current model unless there’s a compelling reason to change.”

Among the reasons Maloof’s task force gave for reconfiguration:

  • It creates a balanced elementary/middle continuum (three three-year spans)
  • The 3-5 band allows for collaboration and expansion of the International Baccalaureate program beyond one school at the elementary level
  • It allows for more community involvement because of the extra year at the 3-5 level.

Here are the two options:

  • In the K-2/3-5 configuration, K-2 buildings would include Clairemont, Glennwood, Winnona Park, Westchester and College Heights, which would be renovated to hold 293 students. The 3-5 buildings would be at Oakhurst, Fifth Avenue and a new structure at the recently purchased property on Talley Street and South Columbia Drive (the Renfroe and Decatur High structures remain unchanged).
  • The current structure overall remains the same except a sixth elementary—at College Heights—gets added to the mix and second 4/5 Academy get built on Talley Street.

Superintendent David Dude says he doesn’t particularly favor either option, but based on conversations he’s had, more and more educators nationwide are favoring the K-2/3-5 split.

We’d like to know which option you favor. Or do you have another alternative? Send comments to communitynews@ajc.com.

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