Decatur Schools, Running Out of Space, Look Outside City

There is a new, very interesting report on Decaturish that CSD is growing so fast that it is considering leasing space from other area  school systems. Namely Atlanta or DeKalb.

Additionally, if enrollment continues at it’s current rate, the only other options are ones we’ve floated here in the past, that likely wont be very popular.  It seems that Dr. Edwards agrees. From Decaturish…

Edwards said there are other alternatives if the rental idea doesn’t pan out, but they probably won’t be popular.

One idea is implementing split shifts, meaning that the system will educate one group of students in the morning and another group in the afternoon. The system could also add even more portables. Or it could explore becoming a year-round school system where a portion of the student body is out of school at any given time during the year.

It might not be popular, but as has been pointed out here previously, for that reason it might just be the one thing that can slow the enrollment growth.

55 thoughts on “Decatur Schools, Running Out of Space, Look Outside City”

  1. I’m starting to think that’s the only thing that will stop everyone from moving to Decatur for the school system, especially from within greater (mostly intown) ATL – a school system that is so crowded that it’s just not attractive anymore bc it has very undesirable situations such as split shifts, year-round school, too many temporary buildings, etc.

  2. We need to help the schools around us get better to stop the in-flood. Or something. Decatur is not the place it used to be, it has changed in many ways both good and bad. I fear that we will start to have big problems with the schools and other aspects of life in Decatur SOON.

    1. For so many reasons, the DeKalb County School System and the County government need to be fixed in a huge way and soon. Evidently hiding in the City of Decatur bubble is just a temporary solution.

    2. I think it’s past the point of blaming problems in other school systems at this point. Most of the people who could afford to move to Decatur to get out of DeKalb Schools already have. Most people I know who were planning to move to Decatur in the future have changed their plans because they are now priced out.

  3. That old DeVry property’s not looking like such a bad option now, is it? Too bad COD & CSD didn’t make the right move for it & purchase it after it was annexed. Ah, well–guess hindsight’s always 20/20.

      1. The Federal Government Department of Veterans Affairs owns it now and its set to open soon as VA Clinic. So COD can’t easily buy it or use it any more as an option.

        1. I didn’t realize the property was owned by the government which would mean eminent domain is no longer an option. I thought it was only being leased by a government agency.

      1. DeVry property really isn’t an option – it’s in the middle of a fairly aggressive re-development, and would likely cost significantly MORE now than it would have 3-4 years ago. Think a decent size medical campus and a bunch of townhomes that would have to be bought out, along with a ton of site work (repaved parking lots, new stormwater retention facilities, etc.).

        They’ve also cut down approximately 75% of the trees, so at least that would already be done?

        1. Yes, I know it’s no longer an option–hence my statement that it should’ve been snatched up when it was first annexed. But, if memory (and community scuttlebutt) serves me correctly, CSD & the City ruled DeVry out as an option because 1) the City had its beady little eye on a mixed-use development going in there (with the purported concomitant tax revenue); and 2) too many vocal Decatur parents didn’t feel the site was walkable enough.

          So the latter, if true, shows there was plenty of short-sightedness to go around on this one. I daresay any site that CSD has to rent outside the City limits ain’t gonna be too terribly walkable, either.

  4. This confirms to me that there was not enough planning and not nearly enough discussion between the school system and the City.

    We’re adding more residential real estate, something that has an obvious effect on the school system, yet the number of schools or the space those current schools have, has not changed.

  5. No sidewalks down 4th Ave once you cross the line from Decatur into Atlanta. Can yall build some to use while walking the kiddos to East Lake Elementary? Would be greatly appreciated.

    1. The sidewalk starts back up again below Hosea. It’s just sans sidewalks the one block between Northern and Hosea.

  6. Presumably this new school building lease will be on the south side of college. Since kids on the north side would be more likely to drive to school anyway, maybe they can go to the new 4/5 rather than the Oakhurst and Winnona kids who can continue to walk to minimize traffic.

  7. I wonder if the city has ever thought about a tiered property tax system – i.e. higher taxes for newer residents with children to help pay for all the changes to schools that will have to be made?

    1. In some ways, I think it is already tiered. Buying a home in Decatur now is probably a quick way to get appraised value updated in the county tax digest. For older residents, I think the appraised (and subsequent assessed value) takes longer to catch up to the rise in property values, so they might pay lower property taxes for a house of similar size for fair market value compared to one which recently changed owners.

      1. I know they just re-appraised all of Dekalb last year, so all those homes that were either renovated or tear downs now have much higher taxes now, but they’re not all new residents. Not sure if the county does it every certain number of years or what, but I know they’ve caught up in the past year. We have a neighbor who has been in there current house for probably 10 years – 2 kids in school – and they’re now paying about triple the property taxes than what they were before they renovated. While that’s all fair and good since it matches their property value, I still think possibly making new residents pay higher property taxes would help stem the growth and help pay for school renovations/new schools, etc.

        I certainly don’t want to see taxes raised for those that have been here a long time to make up for those that are moving in to take advantage of the schools.

        1. “I know they just re-appraised all of Dekalb last year”

          No. They did not. They may be trying to catch up but they’re not close to being current in the vast majority of properties.

          1. I was going to say. I have a friend who lives in a $450K house who pays less in taxes than I do on my $200K house. Her remodel/expansion was three years ago.

            1. Here’s another ethics question for the board: if you know your neighbor’s renovated house has not been re-appraised, is your moral duty to report the oversight to the city so that the neighbor shares their burden of the tax, or should you protect your neighbor’s secret and say nothing?

          2. Interesting. Our whole street was re-appraised last year and they definitely caught up with those that had remodeled, etc, so I just assumed it was done for the county. Funny enough, but ours actually went down some, which didn’t make any sense to me, but I’m certainly not going to complain about that.

    2. That doesn’t seem like it would pass legal muster and would require state law or constitutional changes. Property taxes are applied to property (not people or behaviors) and assessed at some percentage of their fair market value. Property development ultimately requires public infrastructure including public school expenses. But if you want to charge taxes based on what residents do with their property or who they live with, then you’re getting uncomfortably close to violating the freedom of association. There are some local ordinances in Georgia that levy additional taxes on blighted properties but those are usually assessed because of some physically observable condition related to neglect. It’s a property tax, not a kid tax.

      Commercial properties can be charged development impact fees, but I believe those are only levied by counties and cities to pay for capital improvements (roads, water, sewer, etc.). There is a high bar in Georgia for cities/counties to be able to levy those and schools are not eligible capital expenditures. I know Florida and other states have school impact fees and they can be significant based on the scope of planned developments.

      On the other hand, credits to property taxes are already in place groups of people like seniors who are less likely to have kids in a school system or who have most likely paid into the system over some time. I really don’t agree with senior exemptions from school property taxes because I think every citizen benefits from an educated population and those benefits don’t disappear because you reach a certain age. But it is politically popular.

  8. Can we just all convince our kids to do as poorly as possible on all end of grade testing so our schools look bad?

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t think folks are fleeing DCSS schools for anything as mundane as test scores. I think they are escaping total system failure.

      1. Yup. A woman I know at work has a daughter at McNair who has qualified for a college scholarship. She can’t apply though because DCSS can’t produce her transcript.

  9. Portables (or learning cottages, or whatever is the current PC term) are the best short-term solution. Split shifts and year-round schooling seem like much bigger efforts to implement and manage.

  10. “Doublewides” is I think the preferred term.

    I agree. Trailers provide space and scare away a small subset of the population, which is what we need.

  11. Since it appears some pretty drastic measures are on the table, why not consider cannibalizing one of the parks? I know it will be extremely unpopular, but it might be the lesser of all evils. The new school’s green space would remain open to the public while school is not in session just like the other elem. schools.

  12. Another vote for trailers as a temporary solution. We had ’em at Oakhurst, and my oldest was in one for 2 years there. Long-term, you want to have permanent capacity to meet your enrollment, but I was inside the trailers a number of times, and they’re perfectly OK. Kids who are in them will learn just fine. Split shifts or some of of the other solutions would jam things up a lot worse.

    1. I have never understood the outrage in using the portables. It’s a classroom. What’s the big deal?

      1. The trailers …um…the portables CSD uses are actually quite nice. My kids had no ill effects of their years learning in them–in fact, they were some if their best years.

    2. My kids tried for years and years to be the ones assigned to trailers with no success. It just isn’t fair!

  13. Extra trailers, erm…”learning cottages”… sound like the best option. I have a child in one right now and it’s the same as any regular classroom. I would much rather have trailers mushrooming all over town than have to deal with split shifts. That idea sounds like an absolute scheduling nightmare top to bottom. Plus, the visual demonstration that CSD is all full up wouldn’t hurt either. And now I’m starting to think this report is all a sneaky ploy to make us demand more trailers. Well played, CSD, well played…

    1. I have wondered a bit myself if this was all about getting families to accept a less objectionable option…whether it be trailers or annexation or something else. Whether or not strategy is involved, this is definitely catching people’s attention!

    2. Sounds like a win-win. We’ll meet our space needs without having a negative impact on student learning, or causing serious scheduling problems. At the same time, prospective buyers with kids looking around Decatur will see heaps of trailers on the grounds of all of our schools and decide not to move in, helping alleviate future needs.

      The only thing I’d add is that we need to spend the money to make sure that the interior of the trailers is nice–AC working, comfy chairs and working whiteboards, etc.–but spend diddly on freshening up the exterior paint and that sort of thing. Make ’em look like hell from the outside.

      1. Scattering a few porta-potties around would help with the negative image as well. Prospective parents wouldn’t know that there were actually real bathrooms inside. Maybe some fake window fan units and extension cords…
        Radon danger signs…or would that be so over the top that potential new families would figure out the ruse?

        1. Maybe we could augment those porta-potties with some of the banjo-playing hillbillies Jeff recommended. That’d be sure to cool the ardor of all those upper-class APS/DCSS refugees.

        2. Agreed with the porta-potty suggestion: reduce new enrollment by making us look trashy, but also useful for kids hanging around on the school ground playing after the school day who need to go. If the PTAs got involved, I’m confident they could brainstorm up other useful ideas.

  14. Maybe they should turn the fancy new school board building into a school and let the school board rent offices in a high rise. Wouldn’t that have been the best idea in the first place??

    1. It has crossed my mind that the whole Beacon Hill complex and Ebster field could be a school site, especially because of its central location. At one time, there was a push for the 4/5 to be there. But now that the new police station is there and I believe Ebster pool got a rehab, I think it would be hard to backtrack. And Ebster field is well-used.

      1. Its pretty funny that Beacon Hill was a school and the school system gifted the property to the City. Now we’d like it back from the city. Not going to happen. Maybe the City could at least give the vacant lot next door for a much needed sports practice field. Probably not.

  15. I bailed out of the school board meeting at close to 10PM last night during discussion about a GO Bond referendum which was only the first of five action items. What happened after I left?

  16. Still hoping to hear what happened at the school board meeting last night. One thing that I DID hear that just doesn’t sound right is that while the school population is reportedly doubling, the taxpaying pool is only growing about 3%. How is that possible??

    1. I just played around with the algebra. I think this only makes sense if 29% of our property tax paying households without children have been replaced with households that have an average of 3 children*. (*disclaimer: neither the algebra nor the assumptions nor the computation have been validated by anyone else and it completely ignores the issue of apartment rentals.)

      1. Actually, that doesn’t seem too farfetched, AHID–as you’ve noted yourself, lots & lots of strollers are popping up everywhere. I doubt the people who’re buying up the 5/4’s being built over in Oakhurst (and now, in Decatur Heights & over around Westchester) only have 1 child per family. And if they do, it’s a better than safe bet that they won’t stay a 1-child household.

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