Many Brookhaven residents jeered the DeKalb County School District’s staff-recommended redistricting plan at a Nov. 19 meeting, saying it splits up neighborhoods and doesn’t adequately address overcrowding in the long term.
The meeting, held at Chamblee Charter High School, was the last of three public meetings for residents to chime in on the redistricting process. Current plans are to send a final recommendation to the Board of Education in January with a final vote scheduled in February. But the school board’s recent decision to install an interim superintendent had some asking if the timeline could be met.
The redistricting is underway ahead of opening the new 950-seat Doraville United Elementary School in August 2020, formerly known as Cross Keys North. The new school is expected to alleviate overcrowding at Brookhaven’s Ashford Park, Dresden and Montgomery elementary schools, and at Huntley Hills and Cary Reynolds elementary schools in Chamblee, by relocating students to the new school.
Brookhaven parents said they were largely upset because the redistricting recommendation breaks up the Sexton Woods neighborhood. Most children living there currently attend Montgomery Elementary.
“They’re not accounting for what we’ve voiced through public input,” one resident said.
“Can we be part of a big solution and not a small solution?” said another resident.
The comments were made during facilitated small group discussions at Chamblee Charter High School. The staff-recommended plan was introduced at the meeting and includes moving 982 students to other schools and removing 36 portable classrooms or trailers.
“Splitting up Sexton Woods violates all criteria” the district uses to design a redistricting plan, one resident said. The neighborhood has a website, “Save Sexton Woods.”
DeKalb Schools staff recommends moving five students from Montgomery to Doraville United and another 97 students from Montgomery to Huntley Hills.
A few parents said they worried their home property values would sink if their children were moved from Brookhaven schools to the new Doraville school. Property values are not part of the criteria considered by the school district when redistricting.
The staff-recommended plan would move 381 students from Dresden to Doraville United and 49 students from Montclair to Dresden. The plan also would move 206 Cary Reynolds students to Doraville United; 93 Huntley Hills students to Doraville United; and 108 Hightower students to Doraville United.
The staff-recommended plan also adds two Brookhaven streets into the redistricting proposal not included in the first two meetings, and would move a total of 43 students from Ashford Park to John Lewis Elementary School. Lewis Elementary opened in Brookhaven last year.
“We were not in previous plans … [W]e just found out about this,” said Blair Huckeba, a real estate agent who lives on Richwood Drive, a small street on the edge of the Drew Valley and Ashford Park neighborhoods. Her daughter attends kindergarten at Ashford Park and she has two younger children she is planning to send to Ashford Park. But if her street is redistricted, she said, she could have children attending different schools.
“This is the same position I have with my other neighbors,” she said. “We’re not sure why our neighborhood was singled out.”
Before the small group discussions, Hans Williams, the director of planning in the operations division for DeKalb Schools, gave a presentation to more than 200 residents who packed the high school auditorium. When Williams said keeping neighborhoods intact was one of nine criteria used in the staff plan, many parents loudly booed.
Louder boos and shouts followed when Williams read off comments from the second public meeting, which included parents in Sexton Woods and Ashford Park neighborhoods saying they wanted larger areas moved rather than smaller. Williams was forced to talk over the boos and shouts.
Williams read a statement from Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson that said she has not had time to review or endorse the staff-recommended plan and would be considering additional public comments before making a final recommendation. An online survey to make comments is available through Dec. 8.