Erroll B. Davis Jr.

The Atlanta Public School system on Jan. 19 released its list of priorities that will serve as its guide while navigating a contentious redistricting process that has irritated many parents of children in Buckhead schools.

The top priorities include developing boundaries that will be functional for 10 years based on student enrollment; attempting to send students to schools close to where they live, within walking distance if possible; and avoiding splitting up neighborhoods.

School Board Member Nancy Meister told the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods on Jan. 12 that the guidelines would precede the posting of two new rezoning maps that will reflect input from the community about the previous four proposals. Those maps will be posted on the Atlanta Public Schools website on Jan. 23, Meister said. Buckhead’s meeting to review the new maps is set for Feb. 1 at North Atlanta High School, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Superintendent Erroll Davis alluded to the flood of emails he’s received on the topic in his letter introducing the priorities.

“The email address for the demographic study is ApsDemographicStudy@atlantapublicschools.us,” Davis said. “I urge you to use this mailbox, instead of my personal one, as I will not have the ability to respond in a timely manner given the more compressed time schedule ahead of us.”

Here are the guiding principles released by Atlanta Public Schools:

Demographic Study Guiding Principles (01/19/12)

RANKING OF PRIORITIES 

Priority No. 1

• Propose boundaries that will be functional for 10 years based on forecasted enrollment.

• Attempt to assign students to schools located closest to their homes. Allow K-8 students to walk where possible. The proximity of ES’s to MS’s should be maximized.

• Attempt to maximize/keep the school feeder concept intact. No more split feeders. Clusters only.

• When evaluating consolidation/closure scenarios and determining which facilities should be retained vs. closed, consideration should be given to minimizing disruption to established educational programming (retain existing IB programs, magnet schools, etc.)

• Ensure student safety and transportation efficiency by using major highway corridors and geographic features as zone boundaries. Give weight to traffic patterns, energy efficiency, etc. Consider time spent on buses

• Assume NAHS capacity of 2,400.

• Minimize impacts on areas that have been redistricted within the last three years.

• Recommend school consolidation/closures in areas where forecasted enrollment does not support multiple schools.

• Attempt to avoid splitting neighborhoods. (Neighborhood boundaries are determined by generally accepted definitions used by the City of Atlanta).

Priority No. 2

• Favor the retention of newer/larger facilities which have benefitted from recent capital investment in expansion or renovation.

• Retain more accessible, less congested school sites which have better transportation access and can accommodate future long-term expansion beyond the forecast period of this study.

• When consolidating, to the extent possible, avoid closing a high performing school to send children to a lower performing school.

• Don’t eliminate an IB school within an IB cluster.

• Retain ES splitting (K-3, 4-5) as a planning tool.

• Consider SPLOST funded school expansions as a planning tool.

• Be careful in moving students from high performing ES’s to low performing MS’s.

• Balance current utilization of retained buildings to 80 percent to 90 percent of capacity.

• In at least one model, minimize the number of transfers across the board.

Priority No. 3

• Before closing a school, consider the robustness of its partner support.

• No K-8 schools planning until Board reviews/resolves policy issues.

• Eliminate the 9th Grade Academy as a stand alone facility.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com