If parent attendance is the indicator, interest in a plan to redistrict DeKalb County schools can easily be described as off the charts.
A recent meeting at Chamblee High School was aimed at pulling in parents from the northern part of the county. It drew hundreds.
The school’s gym was elbow-to-elbow at the beginning of the meeting held Jan. 20. The aging school’s cafeteria was overflowing. Police shut down the school’s main parking lot before the meeting even started because it was too full.
“There’s just no space,” said Uwe Neuhaus, a teacher and soccer coach at Chamblee High School.
Despite the crush of people, concerned parents quickly gathered together at tables in the gym and cafeteria and in groups in the gym’s bleachers to discuss a sweeping redistricting proposal that would affect many schools in northern DeKalb County, particularly elementary schools.
The district’s consultants have presented two proposals: a “centralized” option and a “decentralized” option. Both were disseminated Jan. 3. While each has drawn controversy and concern from parents, the proposals are merely jumping off points, said William Carnes, with MGT of America Inc.
“The options we have are simply the place to start,” he said. “What we’re looking for is ‘option three.’ “
The districts consultants will have plenty of parent comments to choose from while they reshape the district’s attendance boundaries.
Parents in the northern part of the county advocated for boundaries based on geography, not political inclinations. Feeder patterns of elementary schools in the Dunwoody and Chamblee clusters should remain as they are, they say.
Most parents at the meeting seemed to want to discard the “centralized” option that would send all magnet programs to the middle of the county, breaking a tradition and network of strong magnet schools across the county that have attracted quality educators.
And many parents were uncomfortable about the pace of the process. Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson is scheduled to recommend a redistricting plan to the board Feb. 7. The board could vote on the plan in early March.
Mary Llaurador is concerned about two things. One: the potential impact of redistricting on Chamblee High School, where her child could attend. Two: the uncertainty of what would happen to the school now that it will be rebuilt.
They family is considering St. Pius X Catholic High School and toured the private school at a recent open house. However, they like the diversity of the student population that Chamblee offers.
“We’re undecided about what to do,” said Llaurador, whose other child graduated from Chamblee last year and now attends University of Georgia. “This school is full of great teachers and it’s served us well.”
The district’s “centralized” option would move all magnet programs in the county to Avondale High and Middle schools. For the north part of the county, it would mean that well regarded magnet programs at Chamblee High and Middle schools would be lost.
Kittredge Elementary School, which only offers a magnet program, would be repurposed as a neighborhood school under the proposal.
The “decentralized” option would leave the magnets intact. Both proposals, however, would redraw attendance boundaries for hundreds of students attending elementary schools in DeKalb County.
The biggest shift is a change of Dunwoody Elementary School, the city’s newest facility, from a fourth-and- fifth grade school to a pre-kindergarten-through-fifth grade school.
Under either option currently proposed, the Dunwoody elementary conversion would draw more than 500 students from Vanderlyn to the newly configured school, 300 students from Austin and from 130 to 200 from Chesnut.
A large majority of the students that could leave Vanderlyn for Dunwoody Elementary School live in neighborhoods south of Womack Road.
If Kittredge were to be turned into a neighborhood school, it would have major implications for the Brookhaven area. More than 180 pupils could be pulled from Montgomery Elementary School, around 90 from Huntley Hills, 50 from Cary Reynolds and more than 25 from Ashford Park.
Kathy Arnold, of Doraville, has a child attending the high-achiever magnet program at Chamblee High School. If the magnet were to move 15 miles away to Avondale, it could be a difficult decision whether to stay in the magnet school. Right now, Arnold’s child can walk home if he needs to.
She said she would let her child make the call on where he ultimately wants to complete his high school career. He could possibly transfer to Dunwoody High School, she said.
“I’m going to let him drive the train on that,” Arnold said.
For more information, maps of the redistricting proposals and a schedule of the upcoming meetings go to www.reporternewspapers.net. Check under the tabs for Dunwoody Education and Brookhaven Education.