DUNWOODY, Ga. — Dunwoody is set this week to consider a new intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb Schools to increase the city’s oversight of school site plans.
The move follows recent contentious trailer additions at Dunwoody schools.
One trailer at Dunwoody Elementary School and one at Dunwoody High School were not ready for the first day of classes on Aug. 8 because of issues with the city. When the district began installation of the trailers last month, it placed one trailer at the high school on a sidewalk resting atop cinderblocks before a stop work order forced district officials to get its land disturbance permit approved to move the trailer.
School officials have also found mold and water damage in several trailers, which they are still working to remedy.
Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall said it is time to revoke the city’s memorandum of understanding with the school district.
He presented a five-part plan to the City Council on Monday. The plan outlines a way for the city to revoke the contract, offer a new intergovernmental agreement and seek a second legal opinion to understand which parts of school construction and maintenance the city has enforcement powers over.
The current opinion of city attorneys is that the city only has enforcement powers against the school district over issues involving land disturbance and fire safety.
“Even though the state Department of Education says the school district must obtain permits, must provide site review, must work with the city … the question is, ‘what if they don’t?’” Nall said. “We believe that we are in a limbo of no legislation that gives us that (enforcement) authority.”
There is no state statute that gives the city authority to enforce city codes on school site plans and construction beyond fire safety and land disturbance, he said.
The plan outlines five steps.
First, the city would revoke its memorandum of understanding with the school district. This would also eliminate the school district’s ability to use the city’s alternative professional engineer stamp program for construction projects.
Under that program, the school district may hire a third party engineer to approve site plans. Without that program, the school district would be forced to gain approval through city engineers.
Second, the plan would offer the school district an intergovernmental agreement to create an enforceable city engineer and staff review process for construction. Under the agreement, the school district must adhere to city ordinances, state statutes and other relevant codes.
The school district does not have great incentive to agree to this, Nall said, other than to attempt to repair its bad reputation given recent events in Dunwoody. If the school district does join the agreement, then Dunwoody will rely on the last parts of the plan, seeking a second legal opinion on current state statutes.
The plan states the city will seek legal counsel to review code enforceability limits of the city against the school district for construction projects, and ongoing maintenance and repair projects. The plan also asks for a legislative priority at the state level to clarify enforcement powers for cities against school districts in these areas.
“We’ve got to put a stop to this,” Nall said. “We’ve got to put a stop to the murkiness that the state has here.”