International Community School Moving Into Vacated Medlock Elementary

From the Principal of the International Community School, Laurent Ditmann, Ph.D….

On Monday, October 10, at their monthly business meeting, the Dekalb County School System (DCSS) board approved the International Community School’s(ICS) requested Letter of Intent to lease the Medlock Elementary School building located at 2418 Wood Trail Lane in Decatur, Georgia.

The decision is a victory for ICS, which has been searching for a new facility for more than five years. To accommodate the school’s growing number of students and staff, the facilities have been split between a main campus within the Avondale Pattillo United Methodist Church in Avondale Estates and a satellite campus housing its fifth and sixth grades in Stone Mountain.

ICS officials will now begin finalizing the lease as well as a financial and logistical plan to support a move during the summer of 2012. The new building has more than 20% more space than the existing split campus, with larger classrooms and such prime amenities as a larger library and media center, an award-winning outdoor garden that serves as an outdoor classroom and a multi-purpose building with a gymnasium.

Notes from the DCSS board meeting state; It is beneficial to the District to have unused facilities occupied and to shift the expense of maintenance and utilities to the charter school. As part of the agreement, the International Community School will be solely responsible for providing any repairs, renovations, building and grounds maintenance and payment of utilities at this facility.

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With Medlock Likely to Close, are Decatur’s Northern Residents Now Open to Annexation?

Almost two years ago to the day, residents living north of Decatur’s borders were sharing their new found neighborly relationships with the AJC, stemmed from their new common enemy – Decatur.

Decatur’s vast annexation plan of 2007-2008, initiated in an effort to off-set the residential tax burden by bringing more commercial property inside Decatur, looked to grow the city limits to the north and east.  While many neighbors on the southeastern edge of the city openly hoped for annexation, the voices on the north-side were almost unanimously opposed.  (The AJC article linked above cites a survey where only 14 of 200 area residents were in favor of being annexed into the city of Decatur.)

But now two years later, the landscape has shifted.  DeKalb County Schools looks destined to close the neighborhood’s elementary school, Medlock, and murmurs indicate that some of those same northern neighbors may now be a bit more open to Decatur’s higher taxes in exchange for it’s coveted school system.

But even if northern residents are more amenable to the idea, there are still other substantial hurdles to overcome.  Back in 2008, the other major opponents to the Decatur’s large-scale annexation plan were many of the city’s current residents.  Two in particular, Judd Owen and Pat Herold, uncovered calculation errors in how the school system’s contractor estimated increased school enrollment.  All attempts at revised estimated enrollments were much higher than the original assumptions, throwing the whole process into turmoil, as it was generally thought that any added commercial property tax, wasn’t enough to offset the cost of school enrollment increases.

So here we are in early 2011 – the year in which the City Manager recommended that the City Commission revisit this annexation question – and it looks like the playing field has changed a bit.  The major challenge for the city – if it still wishes to pursue this – will be to craft an annexation area that has more than enough commercial property tax to offset any student populations around it.  And since nearly all of the unincorporated commercial property the city has eyed in the past is to the north/northeast of the city limits, a more supportive northern population could be just what the pro-annexation faction ordered.

Medlock and 13 Other DeKalb Schools Could Close

Here we go again.  From the AJC…

On Monday night, the [DeKalb] school board unveiled a comprehensive redistricting proposal that calls for 12 elementary schools to close: Livsey, Medlock, Rock Chapel, Bob Mathis, Atherton, Glen Haven, Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Toney, Peachcrest, Wadsworth and Kittredge. The proposal also calls for Avondale Middle and Avondale High to be closed and used to house magnet programs.

You may recall that a “citizen’s task force” was formed last year to close schools for financial reasons and that the decision was punted by the School Board, amidst accusations of racism and near fights in board meetings.  Ain’t democracy great?  This year, cash-strapped DeKalb has paid consultants MGT of America $400,000 to arrive at the same conclusion: many South DeKalb schools would have to close due to under-enrollment.

Oh boy.

Four DeKalb Schools Around Decatur No Longer at Risk of Closing

According to this morning’s AJC, DeKalb’s Citizen Planning Task Force has taken four more Dekalb County schools off the list of potential closings.  All sit around Decatur to the northeast and east in Central DeKalb.

The 10 schools remaining on the list are all in South DeKalb.

At the meeting, the task force removed Briar Vista, Laurel Ridge, Medlock and Avondale Elementary Schools from the proposed closure list.

That left 10 of 83 schools under consideration for closure – all in south DeKalb and in primarily poor African-American neighborhoods.

The task force eliminated schools in which there was no nearby school with room, not by race, task force members said.