The elephant in Dunwoody’s living room has been revealed. And it turns out to be a peaceful pachyderm.
Dr. Stephen Green, the superintendent of DeKalb County schools, told a delegation from the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association that when Austin Elementary is rebuilt, it will remain on Roberts Drive.
Green was as direct as he could be, given the possibilities of a land swap and real estate purchases.
“It’s not going to be the Perimeter thing some people have talked about,” he said. “It’s not going to be the old middle school. So what’s left? What’s left? It’s on Roberts Drive.”
While that resolves the major concern of Austin parents and homeowners in the area, it doesn’t answer the question of whether Austin will be re-built on its current site or on the acreage of the Dunwoody Senior baseball fields.
Each decision carries problems. If Austin stays where it is, where will some 690 students go for two years? And can that site handle an expansion to 900 students?
And if the city swaps the ball fields to the school system, where will 1200 middle-schoolers play baseball? And can the current Austin site accommodate the number of playing fields?
A new Austin was approved in the last vote to extend the school board’s E-Splost, or one-cent sales tax for capital needs. State Sen. Fran Millar had agreed with the interim superintendent, Michael Thurmond, that Austin would be re-built in place. But Millar and other grew nervous when Green took the job and when it became clear that state funding formulas would effectively require a 900-student facility.
The DHA group, led by past president Stacey Harris, focused on that capacity question.
Dan Drake, the system’s planning director, tried to ease concerns.
“The beauty of 900,” he said, “is that teachers stay in place. They don’t go from school to school.”
Personnel such as nurses and specialty teachers do that now.
As to timing on when plans for Austin will become final, Joshua Williams, the chief operating officer, said the next month to two months will tell the tale. He said an architect was on board.
Said Green, “If there’s something to say, we’ll say it.”
The Dunwoody city government has been silent on the matter, but the council did meet last month in executive session believed to center on real estate matters.
Two council members said the one firm consensus was that Austin remain on Roberts Drive.
DHA members also asked about overcrowding at Peachtree Charter Middle School and Dunwoody High.
Drake, the planner, said the system is studying when to ask for a referendum on E-Splost No. 5 and what to include in it.
“The key,” Drake said, “is to keep the school on Roberts Drive. All other options flow from that.”
And as most Dunwoody residents know, that puts another elephant in the living room. Can you say student re-districting?