Decatur’s New Elementary School Would House K-5

After being reported late last month that Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards believed the school system needed a new school on the northside of town by 2018, folks openly wondered whether it would be K-3 or K-5 school.

Here’s an answer, found at the end of a new AJC blurb on the Superintendent’s plan to ask the Decatur School Board this evening to approve the bond that would fund the Phase II renovations to Renfroe and Decatur High, along with this new elementary school…

Edwards believes a new K-5 building—K-3 one side and a 4/5 school on the other—would cost about $25 million. She said she’d like to see the new school open by 2017-18.

The bond still needs to go before the Decatur City Commission.  Mayor Jim Baskett has already said that the city will pursue a bond referendum for the school system this Spring.

36 thoughts on “Decatur’s New Elementary School Would House K-5”

  1. I obviously haven’t kept up. If this is all about the status quo, without annexation, I thought that the explosion of baby growth was disproportionately on the south side and that the schools were full to the brim there. Meanwhile, I thought that the opening of Westchester had solved the problem on the north side, at least for a while until the Westchester area becomes the new Oakhurst. I would have thought that another school would have been needed on the south side before the north side. Or maybe this is an easing into a K-5 model? We have K-3/4-5 hybrid on the north side and status quo on the south side; then, when the Fifth Ave.’s capacity is exceeded, all the elementary schools, including Fifth Ave, transform into K-5s? It still seems like there would be a net deficiency in elementary school seats on the south side.

    Where would a new north side school go if there’s no annexation? (For the right price, our property is volunteered.)

  2. I wonder if that would mean that half the children who enter the 4/5 next year, would then move to the new school for the fifth grade. It’s not that fun to go to one school for one year, and another school for one year. And, some of those kids would also be kids who just went to more than one K-3 because of redistricting. I really do not like the idea of more than one 4/5 Academy. I think it will be quite divisive.

    1. Maybe the transition could be staggered, kind of like “grandfathering”. I agree that just one year in a school is not ideal although with all the reconfigurations over the years, it’s happened to each of my kids. It’s a good way to avoid volunteering and changing out all those school affinity cards: “Since we’re only here this year….” 🙂

    2. I (and many others) don’t like the idea of having even one 4/5, but the 4/5 model is Dr. Edwards’ baby, so any concerns are falling on deaf ears. I imagine yours will too.

      1. Maybe the school board will drag the Supt. away from her 4/5 baby. It’s not your father’s school board any more. The change at the Chair is proof of that.

        1. It is mind boggling that split shifts are on the table, but CSD won’t even evaluate whether having six K-5 schools (and maybe adding a seventh somewhere) would alleviate some of the challenges we are facing.

            1. It might reduce building costs (refitting FAVE and building one new K-5 vs. a couple elem. schools). It might reduce operating costs. Either of those might reduce the tax burden on residents. It might do neither. But, she is proposing some pretty drastic measures. So, if everything is on the table, then EVERYTHING should be on the table.

              And in the short term, it might reduce what is becoming extreme overcrowding in south side elem. schools, which might buy as a year or two. If half of the 4/5 coming from north of the tracks stay in K-5s north of the tracks, and elem. students south of the tracks are split between three K-5s instead of 2 K-3s, it might make a difference. With the planned Renfroe and DHS expansions, it might negate the need (along with an additional K-5) for a new 4/5 Academy.

              1. I agree. Plus if we can lease the East Lake Elem. building as discussed on the other thread, that is even more seats on the southside which would allow Lenox Place to come back to Oakhurst and alleviate the crunch at the northside schools. 4/5 is not helping our flexibility and costs us bigtime in transportation.

  3. Meanwhile, over at Decaturish, it’s reported that “Decatur considers leasing space from other school systems”. All I can say is wow. Culture shock for anyone who was here when schools were purposefully closed.

    1. Yes that news is a big deal and changes the whole landscape of the conversation. As you are aware, we’ve talked about split shifts here before. I’m looking forward to hearing reactions to this new development. We are now to a point where we can’t build our way out of it and there are some not so great options on the table. I wonder how split shift will look to folks now.

      1. “I’m looking forward to hearing reactions to this new development.”

        Me, too. Off to fetch the popcorn now…

    2. Split shifts sound terrible to me. Option D or E. So what ARE Options A, B, and C? Is one option to annex? Will annexation truly take care of the need to build our way out by providing site options? If so, I wish this would be explicitly stated. Annexation is a big deal so residents need to truly understand the pros and cons. And a gazillion trailers aren’t an option? Trailers have their limitations but I’d rank them above split shifts. And what about the DeVry campus–off the table now? It doesn’t have a neighborhood school feel but again it is probably preferable to split shifts.

      1. Wait what? I thought you told me it was everyone else who hated the split shift idea. What about year round school?

        As has been mentioned here before, what does building more do to slow the growth? At what point do we do something a bit less attractive to help slow the influx? Building is a very expensive option just to kick the can down the road a couple of years and pray the legislature allows Dunwoody and Brookhaven to create their own school districts in the future. Or that DeKalb and Atlanta see drastic turnarounds in the next 5 years.

        1. Year round school is different from split shift, no? Year round school would have been fine with me as a working parent. Split shift is 7 AM- 1 PM and 1 PM to 7 PM, no? Maybe I don’t understand split shift.

          1. And the reason I didn’t put year round school out there is that I’ve given up on it. I’m evidently the only person in all of Decatur who can stomach the idea.

              1. Oh just the comments here and when I’ve mentioned it around casually. Of course, folks might pick it over split shifts (if I understand the concept correctly) or being sent to rented space at Avondale Middle. Here’s my guess on our community’s preferences from most to least preferred:
                1) The whole problem melts away magically (and there’s always that possibility if jobs dry up for the $800,000 home buyers and the DeKalb County School System is reincarnated as a successful school system)
                2) New schools are built inside COD
                3) Trailers
                4) New schools on annexed sites
                5) Year round schools
                6) Rental schools elsewhere
                7) Split shifts

                My second guess is to switch number 6) and number 7).

                1. How would year round school help overcrowding? 4 cohorts of students so that at any given time 1/4 of the student population is on a break? Would siblings be given the same schedule? I am not saying it would not work, but it would be a tough sell to parents and would not necessarily be easier for working parents. Not that I have been suffering under the delusion that the school system is here to make parents’ lives easier.

                  How about making the 4/5 academy online only (not seriously)

                  I cannot fathom where a new school would even go.

      2. The DeVry campus ship has already sailed – it’s no longer an option. I’m still surprised that a number of townhomes were approved for a portion of the property, but that’s another discussion.

  4. My apologies in advance if this question seems naive, but if school capacity is such an issue why don’t they just raise the taxes necessary to do what they need?

    Yes Decatur has some high taxes, but residents also have high expectations of its school system and are traditionally open to high taxes in exchange for the good governance we enjoy here in Decatur. And given how much homes in Decatur are going for these days, I think the current mix of residents could afford to shoulder a tax increase. Of course, make sure any new taxes are progressive so that it would not adversely affect low-income residents.

    I for one would be happy to pay more in taxes to maintain our stellar school system. It sure beats paying $20,000/year for private school.

    1. Whether or not it results in a tax increase (or if costs are met through new commercial development, etc.), I don’t think access to capital will prove to be one of our bigger issues.The where and how to accommodate a growing enrollment will likely remain the principal focus for some time.

    2. Beyond the important conversation about pricing people out of the city, we simply can’t build fast enough. Also there’s not that much available space.

      As others have noted here before, it’s like building another lane on the highway. Traffic increases to fill the gap, and all you end up doing is kicking the can down the road a couple of years. This seems to be playing out in real time here.

    3. I for one would be happy for PJ to pay more in taxes to maintain the school system.

      Seriously though, just because Decaturites are mostly affluent doesn’t mean they have extra money available to pay higher taxes. Some people are just house-poor.

      1. PJ does have the basic analysis lots of people are doing correct, however. When we moved to Decatur (last couple of years, but no kids yet), after doing the math, it will be…significantly…cheaper to pay Decatur property taxes and no private school fees than, say, Atlanta property taxes and $20k per child per year private school fees. It will be interesting to see how crowded the schools will have to get to change that math.

        1. Sounds good. Those who would have paid for private school if they were in APS can pay more taxes. Those of us who would have just gone to the APS school if we couldn’t have (just barely) bought a Decatur house can keep paying the same rate.

        2. Actually, property taxes in Atlanta-in-DeKalb are higher than Decatur (millage rates of 46.3 vs. 46.1).

          beacham dot com slash knowledge slash atlanta-property-tax-rates

    1. I’ve been bringing up year round schools since I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers which showed that kids from lower income households actually keep up with the rest of their class during the school year but fall behind over the summer. Here’s one subsequent conversation about it.

      And here’s a conversation about split shifts from last December…

  5. When they say “north side of city,” are they talking about north side of tracks (i.e. existing CoD) or the big chunk of area in north where are they are going to annex?

  6. How do we have a separate, smaller 4,5 academy at one school and everyone else gets bussed to Oakhurst?
    Very strange.

    1. It really seems more like a pseudo-4/5, maybe a step in a transition from the 4/5 model to the K-5 or preK-5 model.

      While we’re on the subject of preK, if we annex land or do something else drastic for more school space, could we build in enough capacity for all resident families to have a preK spot? I hate that there’s a lottery and some families who want a preK spot don’t get one.

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