The DeKalb County School District is in the process of determining how to use millions of dollars of E-SPLOST funds to alleviate overcrowding that includes the possibility of building new schools and adding on to others in Brookhaven and Dunwoody.

Hundreds of people packed into Cross Keys High School in Brookhaven Aug. 25 to learn more and provide input into three options the district is considering as part of its planning and feasibility study for middle and high schools. A final plan is expected to be presented to the DeKalb Board of Education at its Dec. 5 meeting.

From left, Stacey Miller Morris, Ted Morris and Michael Sussman, from the Drew Valley neighborhood, attended the meeting at Cross Keys High School on Aug. 25. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

School officials noted at the Aug. 25 meeting that Region 1 of the district—which includes Dunwoody High School, Cross Keys High School, Chamblee middle and high schools, and Sequoyah Middle School—is vastly overcrowded.

Brookhaven parents, however, said they are worried about their schools being split up with all options proposed, including “re-clustering” attendance areas in the Cross Keys cluster. Some Dunwoody parents whose children attend Chamblee Charter High School, a magnet school, say an option to relocate it leaves too much uncertainty of where their children would be going.

The Drew Valley, Ashford Park and Brookhaven Fields neighborhoods in Brookhaven are currently zoned to attend Ashford Park Elementary School, Chamblee Middle School and Chamblee Charter High School.

Drew Clough, who is expecting his first child, said none of the options keep neighborhood children together.

“The school district is expecting the parents of Brookhaven to … risk being torn in half,” he said. “With all three, Drew Valley gets separated. Drew Valley parents are open to integrating a lot of Cross Keys families together, but we oppose being separated from Ashford Park,” he said.

Ellen Sparks of Dunwoody, who has two children attending Chamblee Charter High School, said if the magnet high program is moved, she would choose to send her children to Dunwoody High School, which is already overcrowded. “There is just too much vagueness of where [the magnet schools] would go,” she said.

From left, Amy Penn, Michele Williams and Ellen Sparks, residents of Dunwoody, were also at the Aug. 25 meeting. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

Voters overwhelming approved a referendum on May 24 for $500 million to be raised by extending the 1 cent E-SPLOST for five years. Of that money, $230 million goes toward alleviating overcrowding, with $170 million set aside for new schools and additions.

School officials say there will be a shortage of 5,600 seats at secondary schools in Region 1 between now and 2022.
Option A includes constructing a new 2,400-seat Sequoyah area high school built on land to be found and purchased, plus a new Cross Keys area middle school at the former Briarwood High School site on North Druid Hills Road near I-85, across from the Target shopping center.

There would be additions at five secondary schools, including 600 seats to Cross Keys High School, and no “split feeders” – meaning that middle school students could go to the same high school together. That option adds 6,500 seats to Region 1 middle and high schools by 2022. Estimated cost is $247 million, including land purchase.

Option B would re-cluster Cross Keys and build a new 2,500-seat Cross Keys High School at what is known as the Briarcliff site on North Druid Hills Road and convert the current high school to a 1,500-seat middle school. Dunwoody High School would get 600 seats added. That option includes split feeders to schools in several regions and would add 4,950 middle and high school seats. Estimated cost is $163 million.

Option C includes re-clustering Cross Keys, adding a new 2,000-seat high school in the Sequoyah area area, adding a 1,400-seat middle school for Cross Keys at the Briarcliff site and relocating Chamblee magnet programs to schools in various regions that have available space. Estimated cost is $224 million, including land purchase.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.