A state charter school that was founded by the city of Brookhaven is planning to make its permanent home in Chamblee that will likely include a name change to simply The Innovation Academy.
Brookhaven Innovation Academy board members announced Sept. 27 at a community event at Oglethorpe University that the state charter school has 2.5 acres at 3031 Shallowford Road under contract. Plans are to build a K-8 school on the site and open it no later than August 2019.
BIA is still going through due diligence on the property, but board member Adam Caskey said letting parents the board’s plans early in the process and despite it not being a done deal was part of being transparent about the process.
“We committed to open and honest communication on this issue,” he said. “We understand the emotion involved.”
The news was greeted by applause from the crowd.
Total cost of the property is $1.375 million, Caskey said, but only $500,000 is needed by Nov. 6 as a down payment.
A fundraiser started in July has already raised $150,000 and a metro Atlanta foundation has agreed to a matching grant of $175,000, meaning families need to raise $175,000 by the Nov. 6 deadline, board members said. Board members declined to name the foundation making the matching grant.
The property is located between I-85 and Buford Highway and adjacent to the 6-acre Dynamo Swim Center. DeKalb tax records show the property is zoned office institution.
Changing the name of the school is likely. Board Chair Jennifer Langley said she has registered The Innovation Academy with the state and the board will be soon taking a vote on the potential name change.
Caskey praised the city of Chamblee for helping BIA in the process of finding land and working with the board to bring the school to the city that neighbors Brookhaven.
“Frankly I’ve been blown away by the city leadership and its vision for the future,” he said.
Chamblee City Councilmember Tom Hogan was on hand to welcome the school.
“We couldn’t be more excited for the school to come to a part of town that needs it,” he said. “Welcome to Chamblee.”
Brookhaven Councilmember Bates Mattison, who was chair of the BIA’s board when it was it was approved by the State Charter Schools Commission in 2015 and served for a time as its executive director, said he was happy for BIA and the city of Chamblee.
“This is a huge step in [BIA’s] journey … and I’m also very happy for the city of Chamblee and the citizens in the area who will benefit from the great school the city of Brookhaven created,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
An outside lawyer cleared Mattison to be able work for BIA and serve on the council, but he later resigned the post.
Mattison said he hopes the city of Brookhaven “sees this as a missed opportunity, but learns the value of a charter school and how it can transform an area.”
Mattison attended the Oglethorpe event, but left before a Q&A session in which Langley announced the likely name change. He said he was surprised to hear that and thought a name change would be a “horrible idea.”
“A name has tremendous value and the origins of the idea were created by the city of Brookhaven. The name is irrelevant,” he said. “But even me, who has tremendous passion and put blood, sweat and tears into the school should not be focused on the name. It’s never been about the name — it’s about the mission of the school.”
The state charter school opened last year in Norcross after not being able to find property in Brookhaven.