CSD Purchases .7 Acre Property Adjacent to College Heights

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I admit that I was pretty busy last week, but I’m still not sure how I missed this.  (Decaturish apparently wrote about it on Thursday.)

From Superintendent Dude’s Facebook page

The Board met this morning to purchase the property at 927 South McDonough Street. This property is immediately adjacent to the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center and will add an additional 0.7 +/- acres to the College Heights property. The Board had to act quickly on this purchase due to timeline requirements of the sellers. The purchase price for the property is $525,000.

Currently, there are no specific plans for the use of the property. The Board and I will continue to evaluate the growth and construction needs of the system to determine the best use of the expanded property.

Hmm…how can CSD best use .7 acres?

CSD Begins To Look Beyond College Heights for Early Childhood Learning

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It’s no secret that City Schools of Decatur is in a race to keep up with its ever growing enrollment.  As of the first day of school, enrollment is already at 98% of the aggressive projection.

It’s also pretty well-known at this point that CSD is under contract for a piece of property near East Decatur Station to potentially build a new, lower grade school.  They’ve been floating the idea of a combined K-3 and 4/5 Academy to accommodate that growth.

But while Decatur High and Renfroe Middle schools are already undergoing large expansions, there still isn’t enough K-3 space.  And after reopening Westchester Elementary last year as a K-3, CSD is now turning its sights on the one remaining historic elementary school in the city limits for a potential return to its original use.

As the Superintendent notes in her letter to the School Board for their August meeting, College Heights was previously an elementary school and its location between two “very busy and high enrollment schools”, Oakhurst and Winnona Park, make it an obvious candidate for conversion to a K-3.

So, if the School Board decides to turn College Heights back to a K-3 and also maintain the Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, they will have to find a new location for the ECLC.

On the agenda for the August 11th School Board meeting is an item to draw up architectural drawings to include the Center at Columbia Ventures’ mixed-use Avondale MARTA Station redevelopment.  As the Superintendent notes, plans must be drawn up now so that “CSD’s project to be included in Columbia Ventures financing application, it must have design development architectural drawings produced for inclusion in the financing package.”

Nothing is imminent as the entire process could take 3-4 years, according to Superintendent Edwards, and is complicated by the fact that “The loan to the fund that developed [College Heights] as an ECLC would need to be paid off before it can be repurposed into an elementary school.”

So it sounds like much of this is a ways off, but this is perhaps a hint at just one more moving piece in the marathon race to keep up with rising enrollment.  The Superintendent says that there will be Listening Session on the potential of a new ECLC in the near future, so keep an eye out for that in the coming months.

School Board Approves Tuition Increase for College Heights “Birth to Age 3” Program

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The City Schools of Decatur has only raised the tuition at its 0-3 year-old program at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center by $20/month since it was acquired by CSD back in 2011, according to a note to the School Board from College Heights Principal Suzanne Kennedy.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Decatur School Board approved phasing in a much larger tuition increase at the ECLC over the next three school years.

Principal Kennedy stated in her note to the Board that the ECLC’s tuition rates are “significantly lower than current market value” according to a review of the tuition levels at 10 comparable childhood learning centers around Atlanta.  Principal Kennedy also noted that CSD currently supplements the ECLC to the tune of $1,350,000 a year.

And of course one can’t consider this without first reflecting on CSD’s ever-top-of-mind K-12 student enrollment bulge.

Principal Kennedy stated “College Heights funding may become a larger challenge than it is today given the significant increases in student enrollment across the district and CSD’s primary mandate to serve the K-12 program. After reviewing this information, the council agreed that it was time to adjust tuition rates to be more aligned to other centers and to become more financially sustainable.”

After a “significant amount of deliberation and discussion” including three ECLC Advisory Council Meetings, discussions with Council Members, and “informal Hallway/cocktail/coffee conversations”, CSD staff recommended a gradual increase in ECLC monthly tuition over the next three school years.

As shown in the chart above from the presentation attached to the recommendation, in 2015-2016, tuition will rise $100 from the current level of $1000/month for infants and $900/month for 2-3 year olds.  In both 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, the tuition rate will rise again for both age groups by $150/month each school year.  CSD will also offer a “family discount” of 10% for oldest child if 2 or more enrolled in 0-3.

After all is said and done, monthly tuition is rising from $1,000/month to $1,400 for infants and from $900/month to $1,300/month for 2-3 year-olds by the 2017-2018 school year.

These tuition increases will bring in an additional $543,000 per year (as shown in the chart below), helping to close the $1,350,000 gap that currently exists in the program’s costs and its tuition revenue.

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Charts and tables courtesy of ECLC presentation to School Board

As Demand for Decatur Pre-K Grows, So Does the Wait List

Yesterday, City Schools of Decatur held its pre-K lottery for 190 slots at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center.

As recapped in an email from CSD’s Community Liason Courtney Burnett, “Bright From the Start allocates 9 Pre-K classrooms to City Schools of Decatur that is included in our grant agreement each year.  Class sizes are determined by Bright From the Start.  Currently, we have 4 inclusion classrooms with 20 students enrolled and 5 Pre-K classrooms with 22 students enrolled which totals 190 slots for College Heights ECLC.”

This year, a total of 263 children were involved in the lottery, so 73 children ended up being added to the waiting list.  This is up from 47 children added to the wait list across all of last year.

According to Ms. Burnett, 17 children from last year’s list remain on the waitlist for this year.  With yesterday’s addition of 73 children to the existing waitlist, Ms. Burnett confirmed that “This will be the first year that families who participated in the lottery “probably” will not be offered a slot prior to the start of school.”

Decatur Prepares For President Obama’s VIsit

11Alive does a nice job highlighting the preparation taking place around Decatur for the President’s Thursday visit. (h/t:  Downtown Decatur)

Also, Patch has a new article this morning on the excitement building around Decatur surrounding the President’s short visit to the city.

President Obama Visiting Decatur’s College Heights School This Thursday

Wow. I’m not sure local news gets much bigger than this.

KC alerts us on Twitter and sends along a note sent out by College Heights Principal Suzanne Kennedy to parents that President Barack Obama will visit College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur this coming Thursday. City Schools of Decatur’s Community Liaison Courtney Burnett has confirmed the visit and says CSD is “honored”. This will follow a stop in Asheville, NC on Wednesday, according to the AJC and a stop in Chicago on Friday. Ms. Kennedy’s note said in part..

I have exciting news to share with you about an event at College Heights: President Barack Obama will be on our campus Thursday, February 14, 2013! President Obama’s visit is an honor for College Heights and the City Schools of Decatur.

The school system is currently on winter break, but according to Principal Kennedy’s note, the school’s pre-K and Head Start programs will reconvene for the day on Thursday to accommodate the President’s visit.

Decatur School Board Debates, Then Hires Chairman’s Son

Patch reports that the Decatur School Board debated, but ultimately hired Chairman Marc Wisniewski’s son, Joseph “Andy” Wisniewski, for a part-time job at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center last night.

The background from the Board’s agenda, Action Item “a”, states…

O.C.G.A 20-2-58.1 states that no local board of education shall employ or promote any person who is a member of the immediate family of any board member unless a public, recorded vote is taken on such employment or promotion as a separate matter from any other personnel matter. Any board member whose immediate family member is being considered for employment shall not vote on such employment.

On July 18, 2011 two part-time After School Program Provider positions were posted at the direction of Ms. Suzanne Kennedy, Principal of College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC). Once the posting closed, she and her team evaluated the candidates and a separate team interviewed those candidates. The team decided that they wanted to go forward with Andy Wisniewski and therefore the Human Resources department is requesting the public vote on his employment in compliance with O.C. G.A. 20-2-58.1.

The Board voted 3 to 1 to approve, according to the Patch article, with outgoing member John Ahmann casting the only “nay” vote.  Lots more info on the dabate in the article linked to above.