Sunday, October 16, 2016

Adding 700 Seat to Dunwoody a Bad Idea

Currently Dunwoody High School has a capacity of 1,403 students.

Here is the link from DeKalb, showing the 1,403 number.

 We are being told the planned addition to Dunwoody is 600 seats, taking us to 2,100 student capacity.  The truth is, the plan is to add 700 seats. Dunwoody needs a smaller attendance area (less students), not more seats.

Before we discuss the new plans for DeKalb, let's take a trip down memory lane.  Premier-DeKalb-Enrollment-Balancing-plan
It's comical to look at the 2009 document from DeKalb.  They were so wrong, and they are repeating their same mistakes.

2009 projections - wrong

Here is the most recent link from DeKalb regarding additions and new schools

In the presentation linked above, there is a timeline of stakeholder engagement.   But as early as June 2016, months prior to public input, it appears as DeKalb already decided to add 450 seats to Peachtree Middle School.  Most likely this rendering was discussed a month or two earlier than June.  This leads many to believe that DeKalb, as in past years, puts on the public meetings just for show.

In the original presentations, the school district had three options for people to review and discuss. Option A was the first option.  Option A kept Peachtree's building size as it is, and changed the attendance zone for Peachtree and Dunwoody.  Hightower Elementary in Doraville was moved to a new middle school/high school.  

Option A was the leading choice, with nearly 70% support, for nearly the entire time the poll was online.

Aug 31, 2016

But Option A didn't fit the agenda for some.  Here are the data for the Aug 31 survey results:

Less than three weeks later, the survey results made a dramatic change.  The final 24 hours of the survey is when this change took place, with local schools shamelessly sending emails to parents advising parents on how to vote.  You DID NOT see a flurry of emails asking parents to attend the school council or Foundation meetings.

Sept 18
Option B went from 21% to 51% in just a few days.
Sept 18

Looks like Dunwoody cluster really got after it in the online voting.  Email blasts from the middle and high schools were sent, supporting the DHS school council's position (an opinion we believe will change Dunwoody for decades, and having a negative affect on property values, especially on homes near Womack/Vermack).  Also, we have requested the IP addresses of the online survey as we were tipped that some parents reportedly voted dozens of times, and some perhaps as many as 100 times.  We will publish the IP addresses once received.

Prior to the school council officially voting down Option A, council leaders were told Dunwoody would receive $23 million for an addition if they supported Option B. Some were discussing how great it will be to have a new gym and new locker rooms.  All the shiny amenities and joy that can be had for $23 million.  In emails sent by the school council to parents, the $23 million carrot was dangling. In true DeKalb fashion, that $23 million was changed to $16 million.  Once DeKalb had the survey results they wanted and the signed council letter, it was right back to screwing Dunwoody.

There has been only one time in the modern era where the DeKalb County School District has done the right thing for Dunwoody.  And that was the recent Austin deal.  And the only reason it happened was because we had something they wanted - a big chunk of land for a new school.  Now that the ink is drying on that deal, it's back to usual for DeKalb.

Homeowners living around the DHS campus and Vanderlyn should be very concerned about adding 700 permanent seats to DHS.  Do know that if there are 2,100 seats at DHS, you will have at least 2,100 students.  And in five years when this addition is complete, it will be time for another 600 seats - the school district's numbers say so.  Imagine 2,700 students at DHS when you are ready to retire and sell your home.  Traffic gridlock. 

Why did the school council decide to add on to Peachtree and DHS instead of supporting Option A?  For the official reason, you'll need to ask them.  The minutes from their meeting are HERE.  We don't want to get too personal, but some school council members (elem, middle, high) live on the peripheral of our city's boundaries.  Their concern was that they'd be zoned out of DHS to Chamblee HS or a new Doraville HS.  Keep in mind 95% of Dunwoody residents were going to stay in Dunwoody schools, but it is true some Dunwoody residents (especially those living in apartments near Tilly Mill) were at risk of being rezoned.  

Another factor to not supporting Option A, according to some insiders, was that it was mostly Hispanics being redistricted to a new school.  And these same people didn't like that, or used that reason, to not support Option A.  They believe it's okay for Hispanics to be a minority at DHS, but it's not okay for whites from Dunwoody to get rezoned to a new Doraville HS and be a minority there.  

Balancing schools by race in DeKalb is not possible.  Some DeKalb schools are 90%+ black.  McNair High School had six (6) white students in 2016.   Miller Grove had four (4).  How does that get balanced?  In 2016 Cross Keys had 19 white students and over 1,200 Hispanic students.  

In 2016 DeKalb had 17,000 Hispanic students, 11,000 white students, and 65,000 black students.  

Superintendent Green reportedly doesn't want a new high school to be mostly Hispanic, like Cross Keys is now.  Why is it okay for many schools in DeKalb to be 90%+ black, but not okay to have a majority Hispanic school?  If Dr. Green wants to balance schools by race, then every Doraville and Dunwoody neighborhood will have to be rezoned to a different DeKalb high school.  And we will be waiting for those parents opposed to Option A to be the first to volunteer their snowflakes to the cause.

If you oppose the expansions at PCMS and DHS, you can still have your voice be heard, now that you know more facts.  First, email your school board rep Stan Jester.

Next, email your city council members.  They will be responsible for issuing permits for this new construction.  The city council and mayor have the power to stop/prevent construction in Dunwoody.  Some on council don't want this hot potato tossed in their lap, but you can put it there.  We should insist on traffic studies and storm-water reviews now, not after a school board vote in December (but when DeKalb hires a consultant, they always get the results they want).

The DHS school council should reopen discussions, and consider a new letter that supports a cluster that is inclusive of all Dunwoody residents, and stops there.  A cluster that equals the city's borders would still provide the diversity some seek.  The school cluster would still have more diversity than nearly all others in DeKalb.

If you are a parent, contact your school council members.  Ask what your council supports.  All elementary, middle, and high schools have a school council. 

Next week we revisit VB and review the daily lunch specials, and offer our thoughts on the chicken salad options at Cafe at Pharr.