The DeKalb County Board of Education on Dec. 5 approved a list of projects totaling more than $561 million to be paid for through the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax overwhelmingly approved by voters in May.
Dunwoody High School will receive a two-story, 29-classroom addition for $16.9 million that the school’s council readily admits is not enough, but is a step in the right direction.
“We are excited about the improvements planned for Dunwoody High School,” said Bruce Kaminsky, co-chair of the DHS Council. “Is it perfect? No. Is it better than what we have? Absolutely.”
The vote was 6-1 with board member Stan Jester of Dunwoody voting no. Jester first made a motion to delay the vote at the request of several school councils in Dunwoody and Brookhaven. His motion died for a lack of second.
Kaminsky said the DHS council did request the BOE delay the vote on E-SPLOST projects for 60 days, but now that the vote has been made members are ready to work with school officials to ensure the improvements benefit the students, staff and community.
“We are encouraged that we will have input into the changes made because the county has told us we will,” he said.
The funding for the new high school classrooms is described as a 600-seat addition. But Kaminsky explained that does not mean the school will be adding another 600 students.
Currently the school has 1,826 enrolled, but has a proposed capacity of 1,503 students – meaning the school has 323 more students than it can sustain. DeKalb schools are projecting that in 2022, DHS will have 2,093 students. Working with the current student enrollment of 1,826 and subtracting that from the projected 2,093 students, the school will actually see a net gain of 267 students, Kaminsky said.
“Six hundred seats is a headline number … and people are assuming we will get 600 new students,” he said. “But if you look behind the number, you see that there will only be a net of 267 students added.
“Certainly we would rather be at capacity, but these enhancements are in sync with new students,” Kaminsky said. “Of course, who knows what the actual numbers will be in 2022?”
Improvements planned for DHS with E-SPLOST funds include a kitchen extension, a cafeteria extension, a new media center addition and the paving over a retention pond on the school’s property to add another 160 parking spaces for students.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on May 24 for $561 million to be raised by extending the 1 cent E-SPLOST for five years.
The board voted to spend $291 million on new facilities and school additions to alleviate overcrowding, with $260 million coming from E-SPLOST revenue and $31 million coming from Georgia Department of Education capital outlay reimbursements. School officials have said there will be a shortage of 5,600 seats at secondary schools in Region 1 between now and 2022. Region 1 includes the Cross Keys Cluster in Brookhaven and the Dunwoody Cluster.
“This blueprint will enable the DeKalb County School District to provide our students with first-class facilities and services that they deserve,” Superintendent Stephen Green said in a statement. “But our work is far from finished. We will engage the community every step of the way as these projects move forward. Our goal is to build trust, and complete quality projects, together.”
Peachtree Charter Middle School also will get a 450 classroom addition valued at $14.1 million and Chamblee High School, where many Dunwoody students attend the charter school, will get a 600-seat addition for $21 million.
Kaminsky said he and the council are confident in Green and the transparency of the school administration.
“Every school has needs, but there are only so many dollars to go around,” he said. “This is not optimal, but we are looking forward to moving forward to improve the school for our students, staff and the community. We do believe this is a big step in the right direction.”