CSD Moving DHS & Oakhurst Pre-K Classes To Clairemont

Assistant Superintendent Thomas Van Soelen sends along an FAQ regarding a recent CSD’s decision to move three Pre-K classes – two currently at Decatur High and one at Oakhurst – to Clairemont Elementary.

The 1 1/2 page FAQ be read in full at this link (pdf).

The Vice President of Clairemont’s PTA, Beth Hagberg is already calling on residents to join her and “other concerned parents in attending the Tuesday, April 20 SLT meeting at 5:30 pm in the Clairemont auditorium. Please note that the SLT worksession is at 5:30 and the general meeting is at 7:30.”

51 thoughts on “CSD Moving DHS & Oakhurst Pre-K Classes To Clairemont”

  1. To Parker: There have been pre-K classes at DHS for the past couple of years to handle the overflow from College Heights. The current year I believe there are 6 classes at CH, 1 at DHS, and 1 at Oakhurst. I do not know all the facts before then, but I have been under the impression that the high school helped keep teen mothers in school by having childcare available at the school. Therefore, there were a couple of rooms set up for that purpose. Someone that has been here longer might know more exact details.

    1. The Fraiser Center has been at DHS for 20 years. It was never about overflow; it was created to address the teen parent issue, to provide childcare for employees and only became connected to College Heights AFTER College Heights went from elementary to ECHLC about 4 years ago.

      1. Turns out, according to folks who attended the Clairemont School Leadership Team meeting this week, that there will no longer be preK classes at DHS; they are moving permanently to Clairemont which I guess is becoming a preK-3 school. Everything seems to circle around eventually. We’re going back to a preK-elementary model, 5th Avenue is coming back, folks are realizing that deemphasizing phonics was bad for kids with reading disabilities, hula hoops are big again…..

  2. Also, the PreK provides internship opportunities for DHS students who want to explore teaching and/ or childcare careers.

  3. And yes, I have heard that historically it helped keep teen mothers in HS. If I remember correctly, the teen pregnancy problem was in the 80s but there aren’t many teen moms at DHS now.

  4. On the one hand, I feel annoyed that we obviously closed one school too many 6 years ago–whichever one you want to pick–since most of our elementary schools have two or more trailers and College Heights doesn’t have room for all its preK classes. On the other hand, I wonder if the move towards putting preK in elementary schools might not be a good one. While College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) gets mostly excellent reviews as a daycare and preK facility, there is a logic to having preK with K-3 classes instead of segregated. It’s called PRE-K for a reason–it’s supposed to PREepare kids for KINDERGARTEN. Putting the preK’s within elementary schools so preKers can also get music, PE, art, Spanish, and easy access to learning specialists plus general exposure to school makes some sense. Once space in our K-3 schools is freed up by more building (and loan payments, sigh), maybe they should become preK-3 schools which would offer more continuity for kids. My guess is that, if the College Heights ECLC were to be dedicated to the 0-3 age group, there is plenty of need for those spots from Decatur kids with developmental issues that put them at risk for learning problems later plus plenty of demand from Decatur families just needing good quality daycare nearby.

    1. Oh, and I should have mentioned that it continues to make some sense to have a few preK classes at DHS for the few teens with children, the teachers who love having daycare in close proximity, the families that like daycare in downtown Decatur, and for the internship opportunities for DHS students. Of note, the rationale for Emory and CDC building and providing the land for their own daycares (Clifton School and Clifton School Clairemont Campus) was to provide a lab and internships for Emory students as well as child care for employees. Not sure it really worked out providing much for the students other than part-time employment.

  5. Of course to have preK at every currently open K-3 school would mean adding 2-3 classrooms to every school.

    1. PreK-3 schools would only work if the building of a new 4/5 Academy (plus loan payments that come out of our dwindling operating budget) which allows Glennwood to become an elementary school again results in enough spaces in the four K-3 schools for preK. If not, then forget it. I definitely wouldn’t support more building or trailers to put preKs in the K-3 schools. It just seems a bit bizarre to build an Early Childhood Learning Center tailored for preK and under then have the preKs scattered among three other schools anyway. Which model of delivery are we trying to use?

      When the ECLC and 4/5 models were considered 6-7 years ago, one of the downsides that we were warned about is the inflexibility that comes with smaller grade spans in the schools. Segmentation by grade span is less flexible when enrollment increases or decreases. In addition, our small size will always result in a big impact from small fluctuations of anything–students, money, whatever. Given that we picked the segmented grade span model, the trick is to come up with adaptations that meet the children’s needs using transparent processes that are consistent with our system charter from the state.

      1. Long before Beacon Hill, I suggested that the board consider building on the high school property. If we’re going to do construction, lets do it in a location that provides the most flexibility for grade configurations, etc. Yes, flexibility. It’s a really handy concept in our small system given that they are already projecting overcrowding at the high school once all of our young uns get there in five years or so. ( Who’s paying for that expansion)

        Deeply flawed Option #1247 went something like this:

        K-3 CL, WP, OH, GL
        4-6 Renfroe, who’d like a longer grade span at the academy?
        7-8 junior high annex at the high school Commerce street corner
        9-12 high school

        I was told there was not enough land at the high school, even though there is more than at fifth avenue. That was when the board hadn’t gotten funding for the vocational school at fifth ave. Now as it turns out the vocational school is going on the high school property. The city is planning for a street scape renovation along McDonough and much of the existing high school parking lot along Howard will become “open space.” How about a junior high annex? When, and if populations get smaller in the K-3 and higher at the high school, we’ll be prepared.
        Yes, we’d have to juggle our kids again, but at least our money would have been spent in a centralized location with greater flexibility of use in the long run.

        I know it’s ridiculous to even type this message, but I’m annoyed about more trailors at Clairemont. Just a couple of weeks ago when we learned of the McDonough Streetscape freeing up space at the high school it reminded me of how fiscally irresponsible it seems to me to build at Fifth Avenue. It is counter to many of the boards stated goals six years ago.
        I can just see us all fifteen years from now, gray haired and still sitting in study circles discussing which school to close since none of our schools are at capacity. ARG….
        Once again reminds me that our school board and city commission should be working together on long term planning issues.

        Disregard this post. I just needed to vent.

        1. The DHS parking lot along Howard is going to become “open space”? Like grass? Where will folks park?

          How do the McDonough street improvements free up space?

          I’m full of questions now! Heck if I’m ignoring this post! 🙂

          1. This could be one of those, “Never mind.” moments, but I seem to recall reading (on your site!) that when the McDonough street improvements are implemented the road will be narrowed and diagonal parking, planting and bike lanes will be installed, thereby increasing the number of parking spaces by a considerable number along McDonough and allowing the school to eliminate much of the parking lot at the high school. Not sure how much. I don’t think I made that up. It should be in your post from a couple of weeks ago.

          2. Decatur Metro, you’re the one who posted this information. See this thread: http://www.decaturmetro.com/2010/04/05/decatur-gets-1-77-million-for-n-mcdonough-streetscape-improvements/

            and the comments you posted:
            – Reduce the number of travel lanes and redesign the parking to provide over 100 new diagonal parking spaces on both sides of McDonough Street between the southernmost Decatur High School circular drive and the existing entrances to Chick-Fil-A (east side) and County building (west side)…
            – The new parking can be used to replace the existing Decatur High School parking lot which should be closed for traffic reasons (safety of left-turns across the railroad tracks) and could be torn up and replaced with a grassy field or student plaza area.

            1. Thanks CSD Mom. I guess it didn’t sink in, which is funny because just the other day I was sitting on S. McDonough thinking what an eyesore that parking lot is.

              And I’m not surprised that I’m one one losing it.

  6. Putting three more classes at Clairemont will increase traffic in an already congested neighborhood.
    Clairemont Elementary has a sewage problem. The trailer that is already behind Clairemont has a toilet that continually backs up and overflows. At least twice, it has overflowed across the classroom. Our children sit on the floor in that trailer. We have had raw sewage on our playground that was roped off with yellow tape. The children’s balls roll right under the tape and into the sewage and then are retrieved to continue to be played with. Can that sewage system support two more toilets in the additional trailer?
    Another trailer will further reduce the little greenspace that we have for our children to use. Part of it has a sewage problem and part of it has a drainage problem. Anyone who has been on our playground has seen Lake Clairemont.
    Can someone assure me that once we get a trailer that there is an exit strategy for getting rid of it? Have any of our schools used a trailer and then returned it?
    Can anyone tell us what it would cost to reopen Westchester v.s. the cost of trailers?
    When annexation to our city occurs are we going to add more trailers behind our schools for the additional students?
    Is it clear now that our student population is not declining?

  7. I’m all for early childhood education, but I think that CSD needs to come to grips with the fact that maybe it can’t accommodate every single pre-K kid that wants a free pre-K slot. Why not just only enroll the number of kids that we have slots for at the ECLC and, if and when available, at the Frasier Center/Decatur High? I know that free pre-K is very important for some of our low income residents and is one of the most effective things that we can do to close the achievement gap. However, there are lots of families in Decatur that can afford and take advantage of church preschools and other private options if they don’t get a slot in the lottery. Can we offer pre-K slots to those who need it most (FRL kids) then open it up by lottery to everyone else, cutting off enrollment when we run out of spaces? Is there some sort of legal problem that I am unaware of?

    K-12 education is mandatory; preK is not. Should we really be putting K-3 kids in trailers to accommodate optional preK kids.?

    1. I’m with Sweet. I’m still not getting why this is such a problem. If there aren’t enough spots for all the preK kids without resorting to trailers for the K-3 kids, why are we even offering them spots? In other school districts that I’m familiar with, not everyone that wants a preK spot gets one – in fact it’s not even close. I know it’s a great thing to try to offer preK to everyone who wants it, but if it’s just not possible why can’t we just say, “Sorry, we are full.” I’d also be happy with offering them to lower income kids first b/c I know that it’s important to close the achievement gap.

      1. Cranky, school districts in GA are required to offer kindergarten to every child that wants it so CSD can’t bag kindergarten. I believe that attendance on the part of the children is not mandatory though. However, now that I think about it, didn’t I hear that GA had also made kindergarten attendance mandatory a couple of years ago?

        1. According to the DOE website, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/askdoe.aspx?PageReq=ASKNewcomer, “Georgia law requires that students attend a public or private school or a home study program from their sixth to their 16th birthdays. Public Kindergarten is available in every school system, but it is not mandatory.” Web search turned up evidence that House Bill 431 in 2007 was introduced to require kindergarten attendance for one school year before enrolling in first grade, requiring students to attend a public, private, or home school from their fifth through 16th birthdays. The bill made it through the first and second readings but no further through the legislative process.

  8. I think we should consider moving PreK to Westchester. There are classrooms and a play area there — it is designed as a school afterall. I know there are multple levels of cost associated with this option that I do not know about. The problem of where do we put the children keeps coming up over and over again. Squish’m in! The schools aren’t big enough. I heard an oakhurst resident say that she has 27 children under the age of 7 on her street! Expect the problem to continue over and over again for many years. Ugh!

  9. Oh, and I should have mentioned that it continues to make some sense to have a few preK classes at DHS for the few teens with children, the teachers who love having daycare in close proximity, the families that like daycare in downtown Decatur, and for the internship opportunities for DHS students. Of note, the rationale for Emory and CDC building and providing the land for their own daycares (Clifton School and Clifton School Clairemont Campus) was to provide a lab and internships for Emory students as well as child care for employees. Not sure it really worked out providing much for the students other than part-time employment.

  10. Hmm. I thought they WERE going to put the program at Westchester while some renovations were occurring at DHS. At least, that’s what one of the Pre-K teachers told me. Before College Heights and Westchester were “repurposed” we did have Pre-K at Westchester and there was a lottery to see who got in. Is this still the same situation? The school board just needs to suck it up and send the kids back to Westchester temporarily, instead of trying to squeeze them into Clairmont. Will common sense prevail?

    1. Cranky, there is a lottery, but this year, my understanding is that only four families didn’t get “picked,” and they were wait-listed. Those (like mine) that came late to the pre-K party were also wait-listed. At the time we put ourselves on the list, we were told that there probably would not be classes housed at Oakhurst, but they didn’t know where they would be going.

      I think we have a fabulous school system with fabulous teachers. But my kids aren’t even in it yet, and I’m already frustrated by all of the shifting around and what seem like (to the casual observer) planning problems. I honestly don’t care where my Pre-K-er is housed, but it would be nice to know that someone in charge has a clear idea of where that will be– and not just for this year, but for the years after. The ad-hoc appearance to all of this is a little frustrating. But again, I’m admittedly uneducated on all of this.

  11. As a Clairemont parent, I echo Tammie’s earlier comments and, while I don’t know what the answer to the pre-K situation is, I really question how anyone could think putting another trailer at Clairemont is an acceptable solution to this problem. Clairemont is already crowded enough inside and out. This particular schoolyard simply cannot handle another trailer without compromising the school experience not just for those kids whose classes are housed in the trailers, but for the entire school population as a whole. I don’t know what other options were considered but I can’t fathom anyone that really knows or cares about Clairemont thinking that this is an appropriate decision.

    I am particularly outraged that the Clairemont SLT, PTA, and teachers seem to have been kept totally in the dark about this decision until after it was made. It does not appear to have been discussed at any public school board meeting as far as I can tell. If that’s right, I consider this a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the CSD charter. This essentially amounts to a school reconfiguration and expansion, and should not be done without input from the school leadership, teachers, and parents. How much to charge the Decatur School of Ballet for auditorium space seems to have gotten far more thorough and open consideration than this critical issue.

    I appreciate that there is a lot involved in managing a school district and that there are many considerations of which I might not be aware. But I will be one of many in attendance at tomorrow’s meeting waiting to see how the Board representatives explain what seems to be an ill-informed, underhanded and uncaring decision.

  12. Not really my issue, but if it’s trailers anyway, why aren’t they being put at College Heights?

    1. Everyone seems to be wondering about this. Because CSD thought some Clairemont area parents would want their surplus preKers at Clairemont? Because the donor of the ECLC had a stipulation about trailers? Because the Clairemont playground is such a muddy, stinky mess already that they figured no one would notice another trailer? It’ll be interesting to find out….

        1. Whoa! There’s two trailers already at College Heights?! These trailers are for preK or 0-3 classrooms or for something else?

      1. Because trailers are being put at College Heights to house an expansion of the headstart program by the YMCA. Note that CSD is not covering these costs but a grant the Y won will cover.

        If there are classrooms at Westchester, I think administration should move into trailers and let our children have the classrooms. The more I hear about Phyllis Edwards- from the planning problems to her inaccessibility to the business and larger community- the less I trust her judgment. I hoesntly never worried about this stuff before Baby Nellie, and now I wish I had. Thoughts anyone??

        1. With maybe an exception or two, all of the individuals on the School Board and in the School Administration/Central Office are probably good, hard-working, well-meaning, qualified folks. But they’ve got a group-think going on and I don’t think they listen well to evidence that goes against the group-think. They may be getting better at listening after the electon gave a resounding message that a good portion of the city has concerns–often local elections are shoo-ins with little or no opposition for incumbents. If your child is doing well in CSD and has good teachers, you can go a long while without noticing any problems. But it’s hard to make it all the way through without hitting an issue where you say “What the heck?….” There are much worse school systems around us so we have to appreciate what we have. But we also have the potential to do a lot better in Decatur and that’s what’s frustrating. Some of this is just differences of opinion about decisions but some of it is more substantial issues about planning, budget, services, involving parents, teachers, and the community as per the system charter, and HOW (vs what) decisions are made.

  13. Please note to be at the SLT meeting at 5:30 pm tomorrow. The SLT is supposed to move this item to the top of the agenda, and be there for information and to voice your concerns.

    Thank you for supporting our schools.

  14. Wow. It sounds like there are a lot of trailers around Decatur. Why don’t they just turn Westchester into 1 big overflow school PreK-5 for two years until Fifth Avenue is finished? They’re already heating and cooling the school. Cost of trailers per month anyone?

  15. In regards to trailers, please consider this Decatur Metro post from 6-08…

    Superintendent Stresses That Trailers are Temporary
    June 17, 2008 | 9:57 am
    In a note to a local resident, Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards explains that trailers are a necessary evil for all schools adjusting to fluctuations in population.

    5 years ago redistricting was done on what we only now see was the tail end of a 5 year decline in student enrollment. However since 2003 (with the exception of ‘05) the city has seen a steady increase in enrollment. As a result, the entry point of new students (at the elementary level) is beginning to take on more students than it can physically house. That means trailers in the interim while infrastructure can be expanded.

    The superintendent’s letter stresses that trailers will not be a permanent solution in Decatur. The school system is already looking at viable options to expand at the K-3 and 4-5 level.

    She states “We have just finished another enrollment study and will be using the first part of next year [emphasis mine] to plan for the next steps to accommodate the current students and also to take into account what may happen should annexation plans of the city become a reality.”

    1. The risk of severe weather is an argument against the use of trailers that I haven’t thought much about and find more convincing than most. Experts argue about whether substantial air quality and toxic risks exist. It’s also debatable whether the absence of bathrooms, broken bathrooms, flooding, detached locations, and reduced playground size are unacceptable or an inconvenience that is worth it to keep class sizes reasonable.

      But I have to admit that, in case of a sudden tornado warning or other severe weather, I’d rather have it be five adult staffers who had to suddenly evacuate through the outside to the main school building than 20 elementary school children. Or is there evidence that trailers better anchored now compared to 1998?

  16. My kid will be in a trailer at Winnona Park next year, and I work two blocks away. If I hear that tornado siren go off, words cannot describe what my panic level will be.

  17. During a tornado watch (weather conditions are present that may develop into a tornado) all students are brought inside from anywhere on the campus, including trailers. If the watch turns into a warning (tornado sighted in the immediate area) students go to the area in each school designated to be the safest place by DFD.

    We’ve had a few watches and one or two warnings the last few years at WP. There was also one day (last year, I believe) I brought students inside from the trailers because of a freak wind storm that made the trees across the street sway too much for this principal’s comfort.

    I can assure you that on severe weather days, a principal’s full attention is on the emergency weather radio, weather.com, and to the skies.

    Greg Wiseman
    Principal, Winnona Park
    (and father of a 1st grader in a trailer at Oakhurst)

    1. Thanks Greg! So glad you’re the one in charge over there!

      I would never assume that our children were NOT taken care of, tornado or not. But I am definitely in the camp that would like to see trailers go away completely. As I have said before, I just think it’s shameful that our kids are in trailers and our administration is in a beautiful school.

      I had the pleasure of being on campus at both Clairemont and Westchester for a couple of different events over the weekend. At both schools, I spent some time back behind at the play areas. I was struck by the gorgeous, green fields at Westchester and the multiple play structures and swings–lots of them! Maybe five different play areas? However, it was a very different story at Clairemont. I really hope our school board will consider opening Westchester for our children. It is a beautiful school, inside and out.

    2. Thank you Greg, that is very reassuring. However, i don’t know of a single tornado drill that my trailer residing child has been a part of. Do you know how many, if any, of these drills have been practiced at each of the elementary schools this year?

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