STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — In their first joint meeting in six years, the DeKalb County Commission and the Board of Education ran through a number of initiatives the two could partner on to improve efficiency.

At the May 25 meeting held at the Board of Education meeting room, the two bodies discussed the joint use of school and sports facilities, infrastructure improvements near schools, youth apprenticeship and career training plans and transportation issues. The meeting was set for a maximum of two hours, so agenda items like public safety, drug abuse issues and sex trafficking were left to the next meeting which is tentatively set for October 15. 

This meeting was more symbolic than substantive, because no policy could be written or enacted, just discussed between the two. Last time the two bodies met there was no plan for a second meeting, District 7 Board Member Joyce Morley said, adding she hopes the sessions will produce more than mere talk.

Officials said both entities could benefit from improved communications, but they could also realize cost savings through shared resources and facilities, a key topic at the meeting.

There was a time when school fields were considered DeKalb parks, Board of Education Vice Chair Marshall Orson said. Durability is one of the problems, he said, and he wants to fund turfing of high school fields as much as possible. 

The group also discussed how to make pools part of a shared use plan, with officials suggesting that there could be more pools built for schools and the public in the future. 

The fact that the meeting took place at all was one of the session’s biggest accomplishments, said District 1 Board of Education Member Stan Jester. 

“The school district needs to stop building capital projects in a silo,” he wrote in a statement. “We need to plan and work with our jurisdictional partners to better serve our communities.  Many of the school district’s current building plans harm the community and degrade the quality of education.”

He described the board as “isolationist,” and said if there is no improvement, voters will “vote with their feet,” by moving to districts that build better quality facilities that foster successful educational outcomes. 

Jester asked that drug abuse issues be added to the agenda for next time. The county needs to address vaping in schools, he said, because harder drugs could follow. 

“Amphetamines and opioids are coming to a school near you and I would like to get ahead of this epidemic,” Jester said.

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