Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Elementary School in Dunwoody

The county school system's plans on how to spend $475 million have been modified a bit.  Of interest to readers here is the addition of a new elementary school to be built in Dunwoody, replacing Austin.

Based on school district projections Dunwoody will need more seats in upcoming years.  Projections are just that, projections.  No guarantees.  But all of the elementary schools in the area, except DES, are at full capacity.  School board member Nancy Jester requested a new school be built in Dunwoody, and that the funds for the new school should be included in the SPLOST proposal that DeKalb voters will say 'yes' or 'no' to this November. jester did not specify that Austin be replaced, she simply stated that Dunwoody needed more seats.  Central office employees decided Austin, not Chesnut or Kingsley or Vanderlyn be replaced.  At last night's meeting jester attempted to have 'Austin' removed from SPLOST and have it replaced with generic language saying "a school", but her suggestion was voted down.  The new SPLOST plan passed 8-1 with Jester the lone 'no' vote on the SPLOST plans.

There are many reasons why a SPLOST may not pass.  Voter distrust of the school board is number one.  Scandals rocked the county in years past, with funds being spent improperly.  Not just chump change - we're talking about millions of dollars.  Many of the same players at DeKalb are still in the game.  People can point fingers, but it's hard to believe for some voters that only two people (and no Board members or central office staff) were allegedly behind the scams. 

Next on the list of reasons why SPLOST may be doomed is that the SPLOST projects do not seem to address some of the main needs of the county schools.  You can read more at DeKalb School Watch.

Items one and two are county wide issues.  Looking closely at Dunwoody, residents and parents in the Chesnut and Kingsley areas are most likely upset a new school was not included for this side of Dunwoody.  Austin scored lowered than those two schools, but one of Austin's reasons for earning a low score is the lack of doors on the classrooms.  The inspectors felt this lack of doors detracts from the educational environment. I guess those inspectors don't read Dunwoody School Daze blog.  Just imagine how much higher the kids would have scored had they had doors! This SPLOST does not really affect Vanderlyn, except that a new school now for Austin does put Vandy one step closer to a new school (like it or not) as well. 

A new Austin may or may not affect life at DES, home of the Tigers. But anytime a new school is built (adding a few hundred more seats) redistricting comes with it.  Ah yes, more redistricting - I can hardly wait.

The location of a new Austin is the key.  If it is built at the same location, some Vanderlyn students would be moved to Austin, and maybe some DES as well.  If a new Austin is built to the south (in Georgetown area) then look for major redistricting, again.  You'll see shifts all across the cluster.  I'll call this the Coriolis Force.


And yes, here's the official first "If SPLOST passes" map for Dunwoody.  I'll have to fire-up the Photoshop Machine for more detailed views of the 2014 attendance lines. The image above merely shows the direction kids will move in the event a new Austin is built south of its current location.

I've been to some of the local schools, and I'd say Hightower is the one of the worst campuses I've seen.  But people living around Hightower don't vote so no elementary school for that part of DeKalb.

On everyone's mind will be the location of a new Austin building.  Will it be built on the same site?  That's where most parents will want it.  The footprint there is a little tight.  But there is room for expansion, perhaps.
Could four homeowners sell to DeKalb to expand Austin campus?

DES overlay on the Austin site

The Chamblee High School project has a new footprint, and recently received a waiver from the state so that it can be built on the same site (with some acreage added).  Could the same be done for Austin?  The SPLOST set aside $21 million for a new school, no funds for land.  But the school system comes out spending less by building on the same site and acquiring four (perhaps six) homes on Holly Bank Circle.  This would allow the 75% of kids within walking distance to still walk to school, keeping more cars off the roads.

And just when the dust around here had settled, yet another school-centered storm blows into Dunwoody.

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