By Rick Callihan
At the most recent DeKalb County School Board meeting MGT Consulting presented two different plans for county-wide school attendance zone redistricting. It should be no shock to Dunwoody residents that both plans call for converting Dunwoody Elementary from a fourth and fifth grade school to its original purpose, a K-5 school, to relieve overcrowding at older elementary schools in Dunwoody.
The two plans, called Centralized and Decentralized, hinge on the future use of Kittredge and Chamblee magnet schools.
Under the Centralized plan, Kittredge becomes a traditional K-5 school and the magnet moves to a ‘central’ part of the county. It’s this Centralized plan that causes the most heartache for some Dunwoody residents. Under this plan over 100 children living in the city limits of Dunwoody would be rezoned to schools outside the city (either to Kittredge or Montgomery Elementary, and to Chamblee middle and high schools).
Under the Decentralized plan, Kittredge remains a magnet school and Dunwoody residents remain in schools within the city limits. Peachtree Middle and Dunwoody High remain as they are under this plan.
Dunwoody Elementary a K-5 school
On Jan. 31, Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson will present to the school board her plan.
Tyson’s plan will not be the Centralized or Decentralized plan, but instead one of those plans with some significant modifications. I expect Tyson to present the Decentralized plan with some lines redrawn in other parts of the county, but don’t expect to see new lines for Dunwoody.
I agree with both plans in general as they both make Dunwoody Elementary a K-5 school and both plans put our five cluster elementary schools close to 100 percent capacity, but I’m not in favor of students in our city being zoned into the Chamblee cluster. Furthermore, I don’t think students from Doraville should be part of the Dunwoody cluster.
It’s clear the consultants used simple geography when carving up Dunwoody attendance lines.
There has been lots of discussion lately regarding school demographics, especially for the ‘new’ Dunwoody Elementary. The complaint expressed by some has been that the two schools in the most northern section of Dunwoody, Austin and Vanderlyn, have had students from apartments zoned out of those schools and into Dunwoody Elementary.
Currently, Vanderlyn has one apartment complex in its attendance area, counting for about 15 percent of its enrollment while Austin’s student population is approximately 40 percent from apartments. Standardized test scores show these two schools to be nearly identical, even with one having significantly fewer students from single-family homes than the other.
Location, location, location
As you learn in Real Estate 101, it’s all about location, location, location. Dunwoody’s apartments are nearly all in the southern section of the city, closest to Dunwoody Elementary on Womack Road. It also needs mentioning that half of Dunwoody’s residents live in non-single family homes. The school system’s consultants were not asked (nor should they, nor could they legally) to design the attendance areas based on what type of home students reside in. I don’t like the way some Dunwoody residents are playing the apartment card in the latest redistricting game, but that’s the way it goes.
Both plans are being reviewed by neighborhood groups across the county. Expect plenty of complaints (and compliments) over the next 45 days as this process plays out. There are good things and bad things for Dunwoody in both, too much to sum up in one column. Let your voice be heard by attending the upcoming meetings on this topic.
A sensitive subject for all involved
School redistricting is a very sensitive subject for all involved. People purchased homes based on where their home was zoned, contributed money and time to PTA’s, and developed relationships with other families from their kids’ classrooms.
It will be hard for parents to leave the school they called home, but what about the kids? Keep in mind we are talking about more than lines on a map when it comes to redistricting. It’s been my experience (as a parent and former educator) that kids adapt quite well to their situation. But parents? Well, it takes them a little longer.
View Rick Callihan’s Duwoody Talk blog at www.dunwoodytalk.blogspot.com.