The number of portable classrooms, or trailers, at schools located in Dunwoody and whether they receive certificates of occupancy from the city is still, well, up in the air.
Joshua Williams, chief operations officer of the DeKalb County School District, said in a recent interview there are 34 portable classrooms currently at Dunwoody schools, totaling 55 classrooms.
But a look over the 2016-2017 enrollment report posted on the school district’s website shows that total number to be 49.
The website lists the following numbers: Austin Elementary – 6; Chesnut Elementary – 3; Dunwoody Elementary – 3; Kingsley Elementary – 5; Vanderlyn Elementary – 11; Peachtree Charter Middle School – 16; Dunwoody High School – 5.
The school system did not respond to a request for a further breakdown of the number of trailers at each school in the city in time for the information to be included in this article.
Williams said DeKalb Schools has also always obtained certificates of occupancy from the city of Dunwoody for its trailers despite questions raised by DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester in recent months.
“I couldn’t answer that question,” Williams said when asked why people say the school system is not obtaining certificates of occupancy.
“I do know the school district has always been working with the city and we make sure we go through the formal permit process,” he said. “We do this also with the DeKalb Fire Marshal’s Office.”
An open records request filed with the city of Dunwoody shows the city issued a certificate of occupancy for trailers at Vanderlyn Elementary on Aug. 10, 2009; for trailers at Kingsley Elementary on Oct. 27, 2009, Oct. 19, 2011, and Aug. 9, 2013; at Dunwoody Elementary School on Aug. 5, 2009; at Chesnut Elementary School on Oct. 7, 2009; at Austin Elementary on Aug. 2, 2010, and Oct. 28, 2011.
This year, certificates of occupancy have been issued by the city to DeKalb schools for trailers at Chesnut Elementary on May 15; and at Dunwoody Elementary on May 15.
City records to date show no certificates of occupancy for the middle school or high school.
But Williams insisted the schools have received the proper permits from the city, including certificates of occupancy for trailers, since 2009.
“We are committed to students and we continue to have a collaborative relationship with the city,” he said. “I guess my point is we have submitted for permits … for a number of years,” he said.
On May 8, City Council approved a memorandum of understanding that clarifies the process for the school system to apply for proper permitting from the city for new facilities and trailers.
The memorandum says the county fire marshal will inspect and certify fire code compliance in trailers and buildings; the city will review land disturbance permits; an engineer hired by DeKalb Schools will design, inspect and certify construction permitting compliance; and the city will issue certificates of occupancy after all other steps are completed successfully.
At the May 8 meeting, the city’s attorney and city manager said the city had not been issuing certificates of occupancy to the school system for the trailers for several years. City Attorney Bill Riley also told the council it was not up to the city to make DeKalb Schools apply for proper permitting from the city, but rather that responsibility lies with the Georgia Board of Education.
Pat Schofill, director of Facilities Services & Pupil Transportation with the state board of education, said Riley was wrong and the city is ultimately responsible for enforcing its codes. Riley then said through a city spokesperson regardless of what has been said and who is supposed to do what, the May 8 memorandum ensures the process is now followed correctly.
Williams said the memorandum was simply a continuation of a “strategic partnership” with the city. “The city will certainly be responsible for issuing permits and certificates of occupancy,” he said, and required inspections will continue to be done by the county fire marshal.
“This is not a new thing,” he said. “This process has been done a number of years and with other local cities. [The memorandum] is an added value to streamlining our process.”