LIVE BLOG: Demographic Community Meeting at Young Middle School – SRT 1 & SRT 4 NW

Tonight we are blogging from Young Middle School during the Demographic Community Meeting for SRT 1 & SRT 4 NW.  This covers schools that feed into Mays, Therrell, Douglass, BEST, CSK and Washington High Schools.


(Parents cheer as the demographers announce that Beecher Hills is not closed in Option A or B, then explains the future plans for clarifying the zones of CSKWYLA, BEST Academy and Harper Archer).
6:44pm
Demographer: The last time we met, we brought you four different options.  Now we have refined them to two using your feedback and next we take them back to the Superintendent after meeting with the community for more revisions.  We will look at the financial impacts of these two options but they will not look radically different from what we are presenting to you tonight.

Currently there are over 12,000 empty seats in this zone with no projections for growth over the next 10-15 years.  The gender academies are drawing students from this zone and the location of certain schools are out of balance with the population.  Those are the issues we are addressing.  If nothing is done, most of these schools will remain lower than 50% enrollment over the next decade.

6:47pm
The declining enrollment at Douglass High school is also of concern and we’re trying to do things to fix that.

One of the things that has happened since our last meeting is that the district compiled a list of guiding principles but we found it mathematically impossible to address all of the principles in all zones.

We were able to keep Beecher Hills in these options and Beecher Hills will not be recommended for closure (HUGE applause).  Learn more about Beecher Hills, an IB school in this cluster, here: http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/Domain/316

6:50pm
We received and reviewed over 8.200 comments and 800 emails.  Everyone seemed to prefer the status quo (laughter from audience).

6:53pm
Adamsville/Miles split grade center recommended in both options A&B (huge applause).
Both options have Grove Park/Woodson as split schools
Both options consolidate Towns and Fain into one building TBD
White consolidated into Grove Park/Woodson Primary Grade Center
Kennedy MS closes in both options

The demographers are using the documents below during tonight’s presentation:
Options Summary Write-Up From Demographers (1/27/12)
Community Forum Comment Summary From Demographers (1/27/12)
Option A Plot-Sized Maps with Street Labels From Demographers (1/27/12) Large document, may take a moment to load.
Option B Plot-Sized Maps with Street Labels From Demographers (1/27/12) Large document, may take a moment to load.
Demographic Study Guiding Principles – Erroll Davis (01/19/12) 

No schools scheduled to be built in this area due to capacity issues.  Locations of merged elementary schools will be a district decision.  There are times where the demographers will also recommended some of the items in option A with those in option B to get the best of both worlds.
Most of the audience members say that they’ve seen the maps online.
Demographer takes audience thru how to interpret the maps.  Red and white zones represent the current school lines.
7:09 pm
Q&A has now started
Community member concerned about whether or not students attending charter schools have been factored into the equation.  Demographer explains that all students have been accounted for and that the buildings that are being operated at 70-80% empty are driving the need for closures in this area of town.
Comment:  A lot of areas in this zone are economic deserts and I hope we are not creating educational deserts as well.
Q:  When schools merge or become k2/3-5 schools, when will teachers and principals know where they are going and how they will be structured?
A:  It’s up to APS to decide whether they are K1 – 2-5 or another kind of split.  APS will be responsible for that and other issues.Comment: Bethune parent – If you close Bethune elementary you are going to have more students on the streets and ruin the history of the school.  We have a complex that will soon bring in 52 students to Bethune…where will they go? If the schools are too far away students will miss the bus, parents won’t get up to take them, neighbors won’t take them, MARTA doesn’t run by the school because MARTA took the bus away, can’t walk because you have to take the freeway…if you close it these kids will have no where to go.  “Do not take our schools away from us!”
Comment:  Town Elementary Parent – There is no way that these numbers can speak for what these schools do for these communities.  How can you ask parents to go to a school where they have to take a bus to a parent-teacher conference to get there.  How can we ask them to volunteer?  There are parents that volunteer everyday and teachers that stay after school everyday…they do it because they love these children and love this community.  Without this school our community is dead.  We’ve had APS tell us what they are going to do with Collier Heights and 10 years later nothing has been done, so don’t tell us what APS is going to do.  “Come out there and see what these schools do.  The numbers are not telling the whole story.  To you they are numbers but to us they are our children, they are our lives.”  To close a school that I can walk to would be an injustice to our whole city.
Comment: Kennedy Middle Parent – Kennedy has great expectations for our students.  We have parent support groups for special needs students, a grand-parent support program and more. Where are you going to put our students?  Why not develop what you have?  Why are we using maps to analyze what we have.  Washington is a historical school. Bethune is a historical school. “We need plain simple text, not your evidence and big words…put it in plain simple text so that people can understand. You send home a paper that says ‘demographic’ why not send home a paper that says ‘school closing.”
Comment: Beecher Hills Parent – I want to thank you for removing us from this school closure list.  We fought hard for you to hear us and we we are happy we have been heard.  But you have not seen the end of us until you have kept us out of the final maps.
Demographers explain to the group that there are no splits from elementary to middle school feeder.  Kids from the same elementary school will always go to the same middle school in all of the options.
7:36pm
Comment: Bethune Parent – I’m very disgusted with my elected officials because we’re fighting a fight that should have been fought for us before we got here. You guys put a million dollars in schools and our kids don’t have books.  We thank God for our new board member Byron Amos.  He’s been having meeting after meeting with the community.  Our kids can’t read, they can’t write but you have money for a feasibility study.
Comment: Bethune Parent – We’ve had to close this school 3 times in the last 18 years.  I would like to know the rationale behind why everyone wants to close Bethune so badly.  Herndon sits on the beltline…so is that why you want to close that school as well?
Basically what you’re saying by taking Bethune and Kennedy is that you’re gonna leave this neighborhood to die on the vine.
Comment: Woodson and White parent – I am very concerned about these schools.  I think you should also justify closing schools by giving options of what will be done with those schools once they are closed.
Demographer: We are still working thru what schools will be closed. Since we don’t have any consensus on which schools we can’t address that strategy question.
Demographers currently trying to explain to a commenter that everything you’re seeing tonight is a work in progress and nothing is final in the maps. Things are subject to change.
Comment: You’re looking at our neighborhoods as if they are hopeless but there is hope in our neighborhoods.  When you take away our schools you take that away.  We need Bethune. We need Kennedy.  Instead of less we need more.  Our Board member Byron Amos grew up in the neighborhood and he’s an example of someone coming out of our neighborhood and doing well. We need more not less.
Comment: Parks Middle School Parent – Parks came highly recommended to me for my child.  I like Parks MS in spite of all you’ve heard.  The classes are small but we need tutors and the district needs to make amends with the people in Pitsburgh community. Kids in our neighborhood had no summer program and a girl was raped.  Our kids have nowhere to go and nothing to do.  You talking about saving money, but if you close that school your won’t be saving lives…you’ll be killing children.
8:05pm
Comment:  Don’t lose cost savings as a measure because there is no research anywhere that shows that closing schools actually saves money.  A 9 year old pointed out to me that the purple section on the high school map is 1/3 of the whole city. Our challenge is to figure out how to improve all of the schools so that it doesn’t matter what school a child attends.  Just as soon as you want to close our schools in 2012, in 2013 there is coming an election.
8:09pm
Comment:  White Elementary Parent – The majority of the parents in our school are on the bus line.  The school has already been redistricted once recently.  I have watched these kids walk home from school at night and taken them home.  We need to do something about communication as well.  I alerted my mother that White is about to close.  Now you have to worry about whats going to happen to the school and whats going to be done with it.
Comment:  The Board of Education has decided that they want your property.  Its time for us as a people to get together and do what we need to do about the schools in our community. They know if they close your schools your property value will go down.  You will not get grants for your community if your schools are closed.  Its time for us to stop being rational and be irrational and fight against a system that is trying to fight against us.  We will not be moved, we will stand up and fight.  We will fight for our schools!  Wait until you see how much they take out of your taxes for the BOE and what do they do? They close your schools!  You let them roll over on you.  Get up off your backside and do something!
Comment:  Fain ES Parent – Our school represents a lot of students who walk to school everyday.  Our students will have to catch the bus at 6am everyday.  Have you considered doing a split feeder with Fain?
Demographer:  When we look at an area we explore any solution to try to help solve the problem in an area.  If were to look at Towns/Fain together you would end up with two buildings that are underutilized.  There is plenty of space in the building even when you merget the two schools.  If you keep them open you’ll have 200 kids in a 600 person building.
Comment:  Its a known fact that people don’t fill out the census.  Is anyone coming into the area physically to see how many students are in the area.
Demographer:  We know where all the students live based on the APS database.  We are aware that there is census undercount.  We’ve actually identified areas where the census has less children.  We are being proactive however.  When we’re populating a building and recommending a closure we try to keep them no more than 90% full when we populate them.
Comment:  We would like to see more transparency as it relates to feeder patterns.  We know that NAtlanta feeder pattern is in tact but beyond NAtlanta its all over the place.  We are used to APS’ facade of saying you want community input and then you go and do what you want to do.  But we are the keepers of the SPLOST dollars.  In this area we voted almost 100% for SPLOST.  The people have lost hope in APS.  We need to make sure there are equities in the school system.  We did not ask you to go and erect buildings to cater to the “haves.”  To even say close Kennedy is irresponsible.  That should never have been an option.
Q: Where does Harper Archer feed into?
A:  The Adamsville/Miles zone goes to Mays HS. The remainder goes to Douglass
Comment:  Student at Booker T. Washington – If schools are closed down, will they have transportation to get to school?
Demographer:  Once the list is developed one of the first things to address is transportation and curriculum.
Student recommends a lecture circuit where the demographers and BOE go to every school that will be closing or possibly be closing so they can speak to parents face to face about their concerns.
Comment:  I’m concerned about school closings and I prefer my child be sent to M. Agnes Jones.
Q:  My question is concerning the rationale in having one small area that fed three high schools. I was told at the last meeting that the single gender schools don’t have a ‘zone’ but today you said you would carve out three zones on the map.  I’m concerned about the sustainability of Douglass.  What is the plan?
A:  We know that change has to occur in this area, we have to create two zones about CSK and BEST.  In conversations with the school district, due to the planning for CSK, BEST, Harper and Douglass the plan is to have a feeder zone for CSK and BEST and those kids can have a choice to go to Harper if they don’t want to go to single gender.  If they choose to go to one or the other they would be relatively balanced.  We are attempting to adhere to the districts plan from when they built CSK and BEST.
Comment:  Bunche Parent – Why can’t Herndon and Bethune share that same concept of split feeders? You’re saying that your feasibility study is 22:1 because they already have 33:1 at Bunche.  Lets talk about reducing our classroom size.
Comment:   Boyd Parent – Did anyone consider that closing Boyd would mean that 3 schools would be closing and feeding into one other school.  Our enrollment increases daily and we are in the middle of a revitalization.  Boyd is a pillar in our community.  The school keeps the community together.  We are not just there Monday thru Friday but Saturdays as well.  Unfortunately our parents do not have transportation to make it to some of these meetings where their voices can be heard.  Please keep Boyd open.
Comment:  Stanton Parent – We just fought to get Mosley Park by open.  The kids in that neighborhood have no where to go.  What are we going to do with the building? Our school is the only thing we have left in our neighborhood.  I would rather my baby walk 2 blocks to school rather than get up at 6:30 to get breakfast.  We have so many vacant houses in our neighborhood.  Have any of ya’ll ever walked the neighborhood? I have 5 kids and none of them have ever missed a day of school.  If you take my child’s school from her she will go to KIPP because there is a KIPP bus that comes by my home everyday.
Comment:  Adamsville and Young Parent – I have special needs children and change for them is hard.  How would this affect them?
Demographer:  The special needs classroom is part of the capacity.  We are not recommending the relocating of programs, thats more for the school district to determine.
Q: Is there a feasibility study without the building of the new Buckhead High? Why not extend the zones to accommodate?
A:  There is growth expected there and the building plans for that site are already moving forward.  The current NAHS has 1600 students and they need to have 2400 seats to accomodate the enrollment forecasts.
Follow Up: Why were those areas not zoned down towards Douglass?
Demographer:  Those options have been explored and these are not the final maps.
End of Meeting
Follow Up Note – Saturday, February 4, 2012
A parent has reached out and asked that her question be included in the live blog feed.  Bear with me as its been several days since this meeting and I am summarizing the Q&A.
Q:  Have you run the numbers to see what will happen if a charter school shuts down and the students need to return to their home school?  Once schools are closed/merged will there be enough capacity for these students to return?  To quote the live blog from the Cascade Patch, ” She asked if charter schools failed would the schools absorb those students.”
A:  Yes. We know where every student lives and where every student attends schools.  We have accounted for all public, private and charter school students. Again, quoting the Cascade Patch, “Demographers agreed to follow up with her on this question.”

4 thoughts on “LIVE BLOG: Demographic Community Meeting at Young Middle School – SRT 1 & SRT 4 NW

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  1. According to census it is the same demographic according to the Census of 2010….Please remember to ask the community of Vine City, English Ave and Simpson Road to vote..Once the community vote as a whole it is stronger not weaker..

  2. Actually, Herndon and Bethune are both nice schools. Apparently, you don’t live in the area of Vine City, English Ave or Simpson Rd. so you don’t understand the dynamics of how the communities are close but yet very different. Every community has a culture despite outsiders may view it as. Furthermore, Bethune, like Herndon both house a lot of history and historical value to those communties respectively. A legitmate excuse, please explain, like we asked tonight, why we’re proposing to close 13 schools to save money because of numbers but build 2 new schools on the north side which demographically has grown into part of Douglass and Washington zoned areas?

  3. one speaker said 100% voted for SPLOST; given the voter turnout in that area, what does that mean – 12 votes?

  4. How it is possible that Bethune is such a neccessity when it is located to a main highwqy? Bethune is sharing students backward and forward with Herndon and Jones. It is not going to be difficult for students to go those schools in that area (Herndon or Jones). Some parents do not have a legitimate excuse. Herndon is a nicer school and a better facility that the same parents at Bethune attended as well as their students at one time.

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