While its impact is unclear, a few community leaders are starting to raise pointed questions about the plans for huge expansions at Dunwoody, Chamblee and Lakeside high schools.
The DeKalb Schools plan to use funds from the new Education Special Purpose Local Option sales tax to add 500-600 students to each of the high schools. A common denominator among the three is their small footprints, one-third to one-half of the 25 acres now recommended by the state for construction of high schools.
The idea of a new high school for north DeKalb, probably in Doraville, has been rejected by school councils and the board of education.
The Dunwoody School Daze blog, a respected source for information, is using the latest enrollment data to suggest the timelines are wrong. As part of the plan, the new addition at Chamblee High to accommodate 2500 students would begin in November, 2018. But the latest figures show the Chamblee cluster below projected enrollment.
The Dunwoody cluster recorded an increase in actual enrollment over projected, but construction at the high school isn’t scheduled to begin until late 2020.
The blog’s author suggests swapping the DHS and CHS construction plans or stand down on Chamblee. The author eyes the Chamblee expansion favorably only if it is for easing over-crowding at Lakeside.
On that front, north DeKalb’s school board member, Stan Jester, offered a dim view of the Lakeside planning. That high school, he writes, is squeezing 2165 students in a building with a capacity of 1756. A 750-seat, 38-classroom addition has been approved.
Jester reports that neighborhood and civic groups are beginning to examine the expansion along crowded, two-lane Briarcliff Road.
He said it is research the school system should have done in the first place.
For instance, Lakeside is built on the edge of a flood plain, with plans to relocate a softball field on top of a steam in the middle of the floodplain.
Already, the DeKalb County Commission has voted its unanimous disagreement with the Lakeside decision and favors a focus on a new high school in north DeKalb. The commission believes the DeKalb Schools didn’t consider the infrastructure impact of so many new students at the three high schools.
Another common theme of growing disagreement with expansion is lack of companion space. Representatives of six neighborhood associations wrote the board to complain.
“The expansion plan does not include increasing the common spaces by the same percentage as the student population,” they wrote, “i.e. locker rooms, physical education space, cafeteria capacity, etc.”
That group also stressed 40 years of neglect of the local watershed. it wants to re-open the discussion to neighborhoods beyond the various school councils and committees that oppose re-districting.
It isn’t clear that the DeKalb school board has any interest in re-opening the discussion.