LIVE BLOG: SRT 4 NE at North Atlanta High School – February 1, 2012

Tonight’s live blog is taking place from North Atlanta High School.  Schools in this SRT all feed into Sutton Middle School and then into North Atlanta High School.

6:00pm

Major change in these two maps for SRT 4 is the change of assuming NAHS capacity of 2,400.  Boundaries must be functional for 10 years and the goal, says the demographers was to keep the feeder concept intact.  Because of the upcoming bubble, demographers had an even bigger challenge in this part of SRT 4 as opposed to the NW section.  Demographers say they couldn’t answer all concerns…if they did, it could cost half a billion dollars.

There are 2800 children forecasted to come into this SRT if absolutely nothing is done.  Option A and B would add over 3000 new seats, accomplished by new buildings instead of moving children into SRT 3 and 2, which actually, says the demographer, people last night were really in favor of.

In option A a new middle is planned, in option B, it is not.  Existing NAHS becomes a new middle school with 1180 seats.  Brandon is expanded by 176 seats.  Rivers rebuilt for 648 total students.

Demographer: In this area there is not a lot you can accomplish with moving lines, you must add capacity to this area.  These changes we recommend cannot come into play unless you add capacity in this zone.  The locations of new schools is dependent on the availability of space.

Note:  As demographer talks about changing the zones of Brandon in Option A, parents with signs (as seen above) hold them of and shake them in silent protest.

6:52pm

The new middle school in option A, this zones can go to North Atlanta Middle until there is a need for this building and then they can utilize the new school.

Note: Protest just became a lot more vocal.  Option A is getting tons of “boos.”  Demographer says hopefully parents can give more constructive feedback than “boo,” audience laughs.

6:56pm

Q&A now beginning.

Comment: NAPPS developed 4 principles and the superintendent included them in his principles and that made us feel very included.  But looking at the new maps our principles seem to be ignored.  The new maps move SRT3 students north instead of shifting them south into their own neighborhoods.  It disadvantages students moving into the cluster without the IB foundation.  There is a rumor out there that one of you told an SRT 3 parent on grouping affluent families together because we want it that way, but I hope that is not true.
Demographer: That is ridiculous, I hope you give us more credit than that.
Follow Up:  Why are we moving students from a cluster where there is under capacity into one that is overcrowded.
Demographer:  Key factor was that one of the principles was not to move students from a low performing school to a lower performing school and that influenced our decisions. (Huge cheers from the audience).

Comment:  Sutton Parent – Keeping our middle school as one continues the IB program consistent which we believe is the only feeder of its kind in GA.  The time that it will take to get the new MS on par with Sutton will take too long, something parents are not willing to wait for.  A new middle school is not necessary.  We at Sutton want our school to remain at one or as an alternative a 6th grade academy or a 7th grade one.

7:04:

Comment: Brandon Parents – APS has not provided you with the probable and available space in SRT4.  The expansion in Brandon is shown in both options.  We ask that APS complete a site survey of Brandon and ERivers in the near future to guarantee that expansion is needed.  We also reject having Centennial Place coming into our cluster due to the IB program which is crucial.

Comment:  Bringing in Centennial Place, which is not an IB school, violates your principles.  We also do not support the new middle school.  The numbers don’t suggest the need for a new middle school.  We are also confused that neither of the options included one middle school, even with split campuses. By failing to include this concept you overlooked our feedback.

Comment: There is a Duke University study that says that 6th graders should be separated from 7th and 8th graders.  “I don’t understand a lot of this stuff, I’m an English teacher but what I do know is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  A newcomer can come into the group but it takes 3 years to get IB certified and its a big expense.

From the back of the feedback line:  “Respectfully sir can we get feedback back on the 6th grade academy?”

Demographer:  We have looked at the 6th grade academy but the cohorts don’t support (huge crowd rumble)….we will look into the 6th grade academy but obviously you need relief.  There are 16 portables at Sutton and we can’t feed all of these schools into Sutton MS.  We will take this concept of 6th and 7th grade and explore it with the superintendent however (big applause).

Comment:  Rivers Parent – The guiding principles set by Davis have not been followed.  Its in the best interest of the schools to keep the neighborhood together.  We have a level of diversity unlike other schools in our cluster and its working really well.  If we increase the facility capacity we can support the neighborhood.  In both scenarios both children would be moved twice, once for the rebuild of Rivers and once for the new school.  Preserving what we have now is paramount to the success of the school.  Why not build us a school with the capacity of 750? (“750” is shouted from the crowd).

7:16pm

Comment: Jackson Parents – What happened to the feedback from our focus groups? None of it seems to be included in the current plans.  These proposals, while an improvement, these pro

Demographer:  You can’t accomplish 21 criteria.  We have to work with existing facilities.  We tried to balance the various things as best we could but I can assure you we looked very closely when we were considering the options.  I would argue that the second round addressed many of the issues from the first round of feedback.  Another thing is the timing of when some of these things happen.  We will take another look at it, thank you.

Comment: Bolton Parent – In option A we have all of our neighbors back in the school but in option B we have neighborhoods zoned out of the school.  There has been a small group that has risen up and really put there efforts into the school, why zone any of our neighborhoods out when we’ve never reached capacity?

Demographer:  The goal is to keep schools at/under 90% and if the bulge is only for a short time we can look at that.

Comment:  Smith Parent – We would like to keep our boundaries in tact and hope that no more neighborhoods are removed from our neighborhood.  I want to make sure that the utilization number you put up tonight has been revised.
Demographer:  Yes, we do have the 8 classroom increase in our data.  There is some growth potential in Smith.  Right now you’re hovering right around 100% so the thought process is to provide some relief to Smith in the long term.  We don’t want to make adjustments or no adjustments only for you to become overcrowded in 3-4 years.  Option B does have no change to Smith.  Option A does move a section out of Smith, Buckhead Forest, and that is just an option to help balance our the utilization.
Follow up:  Audience shouts 12 students, 12 students!

Comment:  Garden Hills Parent – Option A fails the neighborhood that has supported Garden Hills over the years and the Latino population that is currently there. In both maps GH is split and half of our community is moved to Rivers.  To move these families out would require bus service and would undermine the feeling and goal of having a school that serves its community.

Comment:  NAHS Parent: To propose moving students from SRT3 to our overcrowded cluster when there is excess capacity in SRT 3 is irresponsible. To propose building a 3rd middle school to accommodate students from SRT3 when they have one under utilized MS and one un-used MS is fiscally irresponsible.  Our community has had the pleasure of many Centennial students attending NAHS through admin transfer and we are glad that they have joined our community.  The proposed move of Centennial students into our cluster forces them to make a long commute.  We value each phase of IB in our schools.  To disrupt our IB program is irresponsible.  Mr. McDaniel, Mrs. Meister – Through our partnership we have created a shared vision for our cluster.  It appears that pressures from a few neighborhoods from outside of SRT4 has driven the decisions at the expense of our community.  I believe the Old Fourth Ward sent out this week lists many legitimate concerns about the options. Make no mistake that SRT4 stands united in our vision for our cluster.  We are capable to work together to do what is best for our cluster.  We request that you ensure that the boundaries of SRT 4 don’t change.  We are the largest SRT and we already have capacity issues. (There was tons of applause throughout this entire statement).

“I would like to request that our representative quit texting and pay attention.” (Shout from the crowd).

7:34pm

Comment:  Collier Parent – I think its a shame that some neighborhoods only found out 5 days ago about this meeting and we’ve had no time to prepare.  Some neighborhoods were never in the first options and didn’t have 60 days to prepare for this meeting.  We just popped into these maps.

Demographer: No decisions will be made tonight. Comment period will go on for a month so please don’t feel like this is your only opportunity to give feedback.

Comment:  (not sure where parent is from) We have two middle schools right now that can easily meet the capacity of a 2400 person high school.  There is no need for an additional middle school.  There is plenty of capacity to the south and we do not need to bear the responsiblity of solving SRT3’s problems.  Regardless as to whether its Morningside, Centennial or any other school….those areas to do not fit into our community.  They do not attend our (insert list of religious houses, sports, etc) and are not part of this community as it relates to this school cluster.  Our community has helped to create a successful school district and we really do know whats best for our children.  I hope our public officials will listen to us.  We cannot support you if you do not support us.  Sutton has become the pride of our community.

Note:  Two Buckhead Forest parents have come to the microphone to say that there is no rational explanation for why they’ve been moved out of the neighborhood.

Demographer: When I was mentioning aesthetics – I did see the emails with the Buckhead Forest land use plans – When we do these zones the final lines will not go thru properties or homes.  I believe there are more than 10 students in Buckhead Forest, but if there are its something that can be reversed.  In that scenario remember that there is a new elementary and we are populating it.  We see growth in the Smith region.  You have 1080 students at Smith and 1320 seats and there is growth potential there and we are trying to be proactive and give you some wiggle room so that when you do grow you will not go over capacity.  (from the crowd “thanks but no thanks”).

Note: Brookwood Hills parent speaking about keeping the IB cluster strong and not allowing students from Centennial or other non IB students to be zoned into the cluster. At 8pm there are over 24 parents still in line with more coming to the floor.

Comment:  Brandon Parent – Beverly Hall promised that the last redistricting would provide a long term solution to the Brandon community.
Demographer:  We’ve discovered some of those conversations that have been had and I think its good to put this on the record.

Note: Parents getting a little antsy. Parent stood up to ask that since we were at the end of the forum that parents from schools that haven’t been heard are heard….another parent yelled “sit down.”  Comments like “That’s nasty” and “We don’t want you anyway” are now being tossed around.  Demographers seem to have things under control.

8:15pm

Comment:  Brandon Parent – I live in what has been a Brandon neighborhood for over 50 years.  Why has our area been proposed to be moved when there is room for us to stay at Brandon. My son is in 3rd grade and this is the least crowded year he has had.  When you look at the reality with the current class sizes Brandon is at a peak utilization of 8?% per year.  Even if we reach capacity, from a survey last year, 86% of Brandon parents surveyed last year would rather use trailers than move from our school.
Demographer:  The redistricting often has a domino effect.  Sometimes when we provide relief to an area it touches the area next to it.  Its really an effort to balance enrollment and utilization of schools.  This is not about one school its about the schools in the entire district.  The 176 student expansion we’re not certain which guilding its going to go in…its up to the district to determine which school is more optimal for which grade levels.

From the audience: “Is this about money or education?”

Comment:  As a psychologist I’ve found that students who feel a sense of communtiy have higher self esteem and higher academic performance.  To take children from a lower performing school and put them in a higher performing school is damaging to their self esteem.  I went to Riverwood in the 80’s when they did this and by the end of the year 1/3 of the students dropped out.  It creates low self esteem.  Why bring kids out of a community that exists rather than fix that community.

Comment:  The elephant in the room is demographics.  They think that N. Atlanta Middle will be a black school and Sutton will be a white school.  I challenge the BOE to put the demographics online for everyone to see.  (lots of boo’s).

Comment: Smith Parent – At the high school level your options don’t make sense because we don’t have room.  At the elementary level we don’t need to transfer kids from schools with ample capacity.  In both of the new options you move more students into NAHS from SRT 3.  How have you found room for kids from Centennial and Morningside?  No one disputes over crowding at Rivers and Garden Hills, what doesn’t make sense is that in option B you put a new school between Rivers and Bolton which you show has ample capacity.  Why do you recommend sending more students to NAHS when there is no room and when a simple move by APS to close transfers to Grady would provide ample room?  Why move out of Bolton and Smith when both schools have capacity to keep them?  I have your projections year by year for the 6 elementary schools and there is no leveling out.  Your real problems are at GH and Rivers, if you focus your attention on those schools… (sorry I lost the rest but you get the point).

8:33pm (tons of parents still in line)

Quite a few comments are repetitive so I’m holding on posting for a moment.

8:44pm

Comments:  Teacher Speaking – When I moved here there were 86,000 children enrolled.  As of this morning, there are 48,000 children now.  A lot of people want to go North to come to school and all of these schools are overcrowded.  I sat at the Jackson meeting and it was packed just like this.  If you would go to these schools and drive around these neighborhoods you will see that things might look good on a map but they don’t work in practice.  70Million dollars for a new high school – those numbers don’t mesh.  I don’t say you don’t need it and it won’t be built.  I’m here to speak as an education advocate for fiscal responsibility. (light applause)

Comment:  Bolton Parent – Bolton was one of the schools on the list where if you compare the 10 year olds now to the 1 year olds now there is a big bubble developing.  We are trying to be proactive and provide some relief for Bolton so that you don’t become over capacity when that does happen.

Comment: Brandon Parent – I live in Argon Forest that is zoned to Brandon. I’m not in favor of the option that moves us out to Garden Hills.  What I don’t understand is why you would move our 100 kids out of this zone and into a school that is overcrowded.
Demographer:  Option A – Argon and other neighborhoods are affected primarily because of the new elementary.  The new elementary is populated relieving GH and then GH needs students to populate it. (Gets a horrible response from the crowd).

Note: Camera crew is done for the evening, so anything you see past this comment will not be seen in our video.

Demographer:  Where you’re closing schools that will happen quickly but where you’re adding capacity you have to find sites and build and these things will not all happen at once they will happen in sequence.

8:53pm

Comment:  It took me 2 years to find a house in Brandon and we moved there 3 years ago and its heartbreaking to be moved out.  If we wanted to move to that school (GH) we would have moved there.

Comment: Garden Hills Parent – We seem to be dealing with overcrowding but we’ve never been offered the opportunity for a 2nd campus.  There is a path from my house just for our neighborhood kids to walk to GH and the new option has us going to Rivers.  Everybody here is very emotional and everybody wants to stay where they are. I got a little upset that “no one wants to come to our under performing school,” but please take into consideration our emotions.  We’re all where we wanna be and I think if you really try you can make it happen.

Comment:  Rivers Parent – Can you tell us the number of transfer students that are at E.Rivers?  Of those 56 students wouldn’t taking out those students get us to where we need to be?
Demographer:  In the model we account for transfer students because according to current policy transfers are allowed.  Transfers are held constant they are not forecasted to increase or decrease.

9:00pm

Note:  Parents are asking to hear from the BOE members in the room about capacity calculations.

Demographer:  This is not a format for the board members to have an open discussion.

Comment: Rivers Parent – Get us the right data.  You have us at 24 classrooms and we have 29 plus a PEC class.
Demographer:  That data was provided to us by APS Facilities.

One thought on “LIVE BLOG: SRT 4 NE at North Atlanta High School – February 1, 2012

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  1. Yes. “I would like to request that our representative quit texting and pay attention.” 🙂

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