DeKalb schools officials say they are asking the city of Dunwoody to consider building new baseball fields in Brook Run Park rather than at Peachtree Charter Middle School as part of a land swap to build a new Austin Elementary School.
DeKalb Schools Director of Planning Dan Drake said at an Oct. 17 public meeting that the school district has gone back to the city and asked about building the baseball fields in Brook Run Park rather than at Peachtree Middle School after talking over plans with the PCMS governing board last week. School officials and many parents want the school to have multi-use fields rather than baseball fields.
“Based on comments [from the board] we have gone back to the city … to talk about that particular issue,” Drake said at the meeting at Dunwoody City Hall to discuss the land swap with parents and residents.
Drake said the DeKalb school board was not able to talk to PCMS before last week about its plans because it was in executive session to talk about real estate. State law allows government entities to discuss real estate matters in closed door sessions.
Two weeks ago, the school board approved a deal with the city of Dunwoody to swap the land where the current Austin Elementary School sits in exchange for the Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields in Dunwoody Park. about 10.2 acres. The school district would then build a new 900-seat Austin Elementary School on the land where the fields are.
As part of the deal the school district would also pay the city $3.6 million to be used toward constructing new baseball fields on approximately 8 acres at PCMS for the Dunwoody Senior Baseball league and to be used by students during school hours. The city would also rehab PCMS’s football fields and track area, giving the city access to the football field for the next 25 years. The 9.8 acres where the current Austin Elementary sits would then be owned by the city to use for park space or public amenity.
The Dunwoody City Council has agreed to the deal preliminarily and is expected to vote on it next month. The City Council also met in executive session to discuss the issue and is now holding public meetings and asking for public comment on the plan.
Many PCMS parents at the Oct. 17 meeting raised concerns about students not having multi-purpose fields to play on during regular school hours. The deal being considered by the city specifically states it will build and control new baseball fields at PCMS and will also renovate the PCMS football field and have access to it after school hours for city use for 25 years.
Finance Director Chris Pike said it too premature to consider building baseball fields at Brook Run Park because the city is in the midst of a Parks Master Plan update and is soliciting input from the public on what to do with its current park land.
The current deal also has a construction timeline that includes no break of service for the school or for Dunwoody Senior Baseball play, he said, and a move to build the new baseball fields elsewhere could affect the schedule.
Closing on the current planned deal is set for January 2017 with construction of the new baseball fields to begin in February. School construction would begin in the fall and the new Austin Elementary would open in the fall of 2019.
“The school brought this to our attention late last week and our initial question is about timing,” Pike said.
Dunwoody Senior Baseball President Jerry Weiner spoke at the meeting, saying the league wants the fields built in Brook Run Park. He said traffic and parking issues at PCMS would negatively affect league play. He also agreed with parents that PCMS students should have access to multi-use fields during school hours rather than just baseball fields.
Another public meeting is set for Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.