As part of its master plan to improve school facilities and alleviate overcrowding, the DeKalb County School District has released preliminary reports showing the “educational suitability” of schools throughout the district, including six that serve the Dunwoody community. 

The educational suitability reports indicated that many schools, like Dunwoody High School, are overcrowded and have classrooms that aren’t suitably sized. But a spokesperson for the school district said these reports are still a work in progress, and will not be finalized until late summer or early fall. 

Trailers under construction at Dunwoody High School in 2019 were intended to add to the school’s capacity. (File)

The school district began working toward the creation of its “Comprehensive Master Plan” last August. The master plan is expected to provide the school district with a district-wide facilities plan through 2031. 

At a March 29 virtual public town hall, representatives from the architectural and consulting firms helping to formulate the master plan — Perkins&Will, Jacobs Engineering Group and Cropper GIS  —  presented the structure for the two main assessments used to grade schools. The Educational Suitability Assessment (ESA) and the Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) will be used to evaluate each school, and will be continuously revised based on feedback from the schools and principals, according to a spokesperson for the master plan. 

The school district has posted preliminary ESAs for each school in the district to its website. According to information from the March 29 meeting, the ESA evaluates program spaces in each school. Program spaces can refer to classrooms, office spaces, athletic spaces, media centers, cafeterias, and more. 

The ESA reports also evaluate aspects such as lighting, outdoor spaces, security and technology. Each school has received an ESA score, where a higher score on a scale up to 100 means the school performs better in terms of educational suitability. The ESA score is calculated in part by rating a number of different standards on a scale of one to five.

The FCA report evaluates the physical state of all facilities within the district, both to find deficiencies that need immediate attention and issues that might arise down the road. Although those preliminary assessments were expected to be available to the public around early April, a spokesperson for the master plan recently said they would be posted by April 30, after the Reporter’s deadline. 

The current ESA reports and future FCA reports are subject to revisions for the foreseeable future, but a snapshot of what the ESA reports for six schools that serve the Dunwoody community looked like in April can be found below. 

Noel Maloof, the deputy chief operations officer for the DeKalb County School District, said during the town hall that the district aims to have the Comprehensive Master Plan finalized before November 2021, which is when the next special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) referendum will be on the ballot for a public vote. SPLOST, which finances capital projects in Georgia, is a main source of funding for the school district, and voted on by the public every five years. 

“If the referendum is passed at that time, we will take the Comprehensive Master Plan — which will be produced and published in its final form by that November 2021 referendum — and then come back and work on development of a project list that will hopefully be funded by the SPLOST VI funding,” Maloof said. 

Dunwoody Elementary School 

Dunwoody Elementary School at 1923 Womack Road received an early ESA score of 74.8. This school was built in 2008 and serves about 934 students. There are about 60 classrooms and no trailers located on the property. 

The school scored low on two technology standards — adequate technology charging locations and the amount of instructional technology available — receiving a score of 2 out of 5 on both. According to the report, there is one smartboard per classroom in the school. The school also received a 2.5 out of 5 on the question of whether there were enough outlets in learning spaces. 

The school scored well on standards that involved classroom configuration, with the report stating that there are “multiple areas for different types of learning.” Music and visual arts spaces both received the comment that while they were in good condition, they were smaller than they should be.

On the issue of accessible restrooms being available to special education spaces, the school received a 1 out of 5. 

Dunwoody Elementary School Upper Campus 

Dunwoody Elementary School’s upper campus, which is located at 1663 E. Nancy Creek Drive, received an early ESA score of 55. This school was built in 1970 and serves about 276 students. There are 28 classrooms in the building and no trailers located on the property.

The school scored low on a couple of safety and security standards. On the question of if the school can host events at night without opening the entire school, the upper campus scored a 2 out of 5 with the comment that only the gym was accessible in that manner. The school also scored a 2 out of 5 on the standard of whether or not the school has key card access for all major entries.  

The upper campus also scored low on technology questions, particularly on the question of instructional technology available in classrooms and in large spaces, like auditoriums. According to the report, the school has one smart board or projector per classroom and there is no AV system in the gym. 

Visual arts and music spaces also scored low. According to the report, music classrooms are located in old kindergarten classrooms and the arts spaces are “small” with an “odd layout.”

Dunwoody High School

Located at 5035 Vermack Road, Dunwoody High School received an early ESA score of 69.4. The high school was built in 1972 and serves about 2,148 students. According to the data section of the master plan’s website, its ideal capacity would be 1,550 students. The high school has 79 classrooms in the main building, and 24 additional classrooms in six trailers located on the property. 

The high school received a 4 out of 5 on all of the outdoor spaces standards and also scored fairly well on all the technology standards. The high school assessment also asked whether the school is set up to adequately support different sports. Most sports received a perfect score for this question, except for swimming, volleyball and basketball. Swimming and volleyball both received a .5 out of 5 and basketball received a 3 out of 5. 

On the question of adequate classrooms, the report stated that some classrooms were undersized, particularly the science labs, and that there weren’t enough “team planning rooms.” The band classroom was also found to be too small, and the high school does not have a choir classroom at all. The report also found the cafeteria and the food serving area to be undersized.

Vanderlyn Elementary School

Vanderlyn Elementary School at 1877 Vanderlyn Drive received an early ESA score of 58.2. Vanderlyn was built in 1973 and serves 601 students. According to the data section of the master plan’s website, its ideal capacity would be 552 students. The school has 35 classrooms in the main building and 11 additional classrooms located in five trailers across the property. 

According to the report, the school does not have a conference room. The school scored low, 2 out of 5, on the amount of spaces that allow for “informal interaction,” and 2.5 out of 5 on the amount of learning areas that allow students to work independently. The report said there are no quiet spaces in the school other than the media center. 

For the standard that asks if the media center is easily accessible, the school scored a 2 out of 5. The report stated that while the media center has tall ceilings and looks “welcoming,” it is “hard to find.” The school does not have a music room, but does have a 1,020 square foot dance studio. 

For the standard concerning the set-up of special education classrooms, the school received a 2 out of 5. According to the report, there are two special education spaces, both of which are undersized and do not offer direct access to bathrooms. 

Austin Elementary School

Austin Elementary School, which is located at 5321 Roberts Drive, received an early ESA score of 89. This school was built just last year in 2020 and serves about 682 students. The school has 61 classrooms and no trailers. 

As of April 27, the report on the Comprehensive Master Plan’s website for Austin Elementary was missing a page. A spokesperson provided an updated report to the Reporter. According to that report, the school did not receive a score lower than 3 out of 5 for any of the standards listed. 

Austin Elementary scored perfectly on all standards involving non-instructional spaces, outdoor spaces, safety and security, and technology readiness. 

The school received a 3 out of 5 on questions of whether the building has adequate spaces for “informal interaction” and how well the media center supports opportunities for “quiet study.” All other standards received scores of 4 or 5. 

Peachtree Charter Middle School

Located at 4664 North Peachtree Road, Peachtree Charter Middle School received an early ESA score of 72.7. This school was built in 2007 and serves about 1,477 students. According to the data section of the master plan’s website, its ideal capacity would be 1,230 students.  There are 71 classrooms in the main building and 19 additional classrooms located in 10 trailers on the property. 

Peachtree Middle scored highly on questions of whether or not classrooms were appropriately sized, with mostly scores of 4 out of 5. The school also received mostly scores of 4 out of 5 on the question of whether special education classrooms were adequately set up and equipped with what they needed.

Peachtree Middle also received scores based on their career and technical education (CTE) and “career connected learning” opportunities. On the question of whether campus facilities align with the school’s CTE programs, Peachtree Middle received a score of 3 out of 5 with no further comments. 

The school also scored fairly high on fine arts standards, and whether band, choir and orchestra classrooms were appropriately designed for those activities. However, the school received a 2.5 out of 5 on the question of adequate dance spaces, and received no score on the question of theater spaces. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.