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.

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.

Decatur Schools Budget Draft Projects $10 Million Spending Increase

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 8.54.06 AM

City Schools of Decatur budget is growing along with its student population.

The slide above from the City Schools of Decatur draft of its budget deck lists out 2016 expenditure assumptions for the 2015-16 school year.   As you can see, almost all of them are in someway related to increased enrollment.

Added to an existing overage of $821,703 are expenses to cover almost 25 new staff positions, additional portable classrooms, and a $1.1 million payment on the “COPS” (aka Certificate of Participation) debt that the school system took out this past year to pay for $18 million in renovations to Decatur High and Renfroe Middle School.

The AJC reports that the High School will need 6-8 new portables.  The AJC states that four trailers will be added to Glenwood Elementary or Westchester Elementary and two will be added at Winnona Park.  Additionally, a Decaturish report says there will be 10 portables at Renfroe.

All in all, the draft deck projects CSD will need $55 million, which is $5 million more than projected revenue in the coming school year and $10 million more than the school system spent in the 2014 fiscal year.    (Note that the deck also shows that the school system’s expenses have been below the budget in 5 of the last 7 years, and that CSD only spent 93% of its budget in FY2014.)

The AJC also reports Superintendent Edwards believes “the gap should close some between now and when the final draft’s approved in June”.  The draft budget assumes state funding will be level with last year ($1.7 million), however that could change since the GA Legislature is still in session.

Decatur School Enrollment Closes In On Projection, Kindergarten Grows

decaturenrollment

You all may remember the post from a week or so ago quoting Neighbor Newspapers saying that CSD enrollment was at 97.5% of the projection?  Welp, in the run up to the start of school, enrollments begin to flood in again.  Here are the latest figures courtesy of the Superintendent Phyllis Edwards’ materials for the next School Board meeting.

As noted in the post title, while the projection seems to be spot on for another school year, Kindergarten has grown from last year and has already surpassed this year’s estimate by 36 students. However, it still remains in the realm of the size of the 400+ students in each grade from K-3.

The Superintendent’s letter to the Board also includes these two paragraphs about enrollment with a note on annexation…

Our enrollment continues to rise.  A new updated sheet is included for your review.  During the second and third weeks of July, just prior to the opening of school, staff has registered over 100 families.

I will employ Tom Sayre, from Sizemore, to review the updated information and provide a new enrollment projection.  In October, it is expected that the city will share plans for annexation and the enrollment data will again need to be revised.  As we have been in all the years of my tenure, we are on top of the projections for the future.

First Look at CSD’s Enrollment Levels For Coming Year

As part of the agenda items included for the Decatur School Board’s April 1st meeting is updated enrollment figures compared to CSD’s projections.  Registration for new 4-12 grade students just opened on March 17th, so this is an early look at those levels, while kindergarten registration opened at the beginning of March.

Enrollment in many grades is still below projected enrollment levels, while grades 10-12 have already exceeded it.  In a March 2013 Atlanta Magazine piece on CSD closing its tuition program, Superintendent Phyllis Edwards noted that the main registration period was generally in “late spring or summer”.

In total, there are already 66 more students enrolled than went to CSD last year.  At this early stage there are 319 spaces before CSD hits its projection, with 90 of those in kindergarten.

The first day of school is August 4th.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 8.25.10 AM

Superintendent: Decatur Will Not Make Up Snow Days

From CSD

Dear CSD Faculty, Staff and Families,
I know you join me in being thankful that all City Schools of Decatur students made it home safely last Tuesday, January 28, during the snowstorm.  Our bus drivers, teachers, staff and principals are to be commended for the successful dismissal and transport of our students.
Our academic calendar has students attending school for 180 days, and we have had no furlough days this year or previous years when other systems had to reduce the number of school days due to financial hardship. Therefore, I have decided to proceed through the appropriate channels to request that City Schools of Decatur students and staff will not make up the three snow days of January 29, 30 and 31.  
Additionally, State Superintendent Dr. John Barge will bring a resolution to the State School Board that requests that the days of January 29, 30 and 31 are forgiven above and beyond the state guidelines for minimum number of hours students must attend school.  This will be helpful to CSD if further winter weather affects metro-Atlanta during the coming months.
Please note that we are making up the extreme winter weather days of January 6 and 7.  The first make-up day will be March 10, which was previously a Teacher Workday.  Now we will have school for students on Monday, March 10. The second day will be Thursday, May 29 with the post-planning day moved to Friday, May 30 for teachers.  Therefore, Thursday, May 29 is now the new last day of school.
Thank you for your continued support of our students and staff at City Schools of Decatur.
Sincerely,
Dr. Phyllis A. Edwards, Superintendent

Superintendent Details Additional Safety Measures Being Taken and Evaluated After Student-Targeted Crimes

From the desk of Superintendent Phyllis Edwards…

Dear Decatur Parents and Community:

Friday night following the Decatur High School vs. Grady High School football game, three armed robberies occurred, all involving our students as victims. The Decatur police have issued a release regarding the information about the incidents. Thankfully, our students were not physically harmed, but staff, students, families and citizens of Decatur are feeling stunned and vulnerable.

Decatur High School has always had police presence at our football games. Chief Booker shared with me that after the game on Friday, he sent the rest of the units over to the high school as well. The police have descriptions of the suspects and the robberies are a police matter.

There have been a number of other incidents like this in Decatur over the last few months. I have spoken with the School Board and administrators about any additional measures that we can take to further protect our students. I have asked the city to provide an additional Resource Officer, at the school system’s expense.

City Schools of Decatur will commit to the following to improve the safety of our students before, during and after athletic events:

  • Host a Student and Parent Safety Meeting on Thursday evening, Sept. 5 at 6:30 pm in the theater of Decatur High School. Lauri McKain, principal of Decatur High School, will present some of the changes to procedures for large school events moving forward, and Sgt. Ross, of the Decatur Police Department, will provide safety recommendations to our students and families.
  • Hire DeKalb County Marshalls on an hourly basis to patrol our campus before, during and after Varsity football and basketball home games
  • Evaluate the lighting on the campus, and adding or adjusting bright floodlights
  • Investigate the rental of walk-through metal detectors
  • Ban spectators’ backpacks or bags from entry into the stadium or gym during a game
  • Organize Band parents to chaperone a pickup location for Band students after games

Additionally, I have asked the Principals at the secondary level to meet with students to remind them again to be vigilant, to walk with others and keep their technology out of sight. Certainly awareness is key but for the typical Decatur student or citizen, expecting this type of criminal behavior is not something that they are accustomed to within the usual safe surroundings. Parents may want to form walking groups that are supervised or pick students up at the school after a game.

This can and has happened at other areas of the city. Our students are very accustomed to walking freely throughout Decatur but some of this freedom may have to be monitored while the police increase their patrols.

An additional press release from the Decatur Police Department can be found by following this link.

I am extremely grateful that our students were not hurt. We will continue to be in contact with the police to see what other avenues or remedies they suggest to keep our children safe.

Sincerely,

Phyllis A. Edwards, Ed.D.

Superintendent