Eugene Walker knows closing schools is inevitable, but the DeKalb County School Board member is spreading the message that high-achieving schools are to be saved.
The board heard a proposal earlier this month that called for the closing of 14 schools in massive redistricting effort that is designed to make the system more efficient and make more schools eligible for state funding.
Seven of the 12 elementary schools recommended to be closed are in Walker’s district. The schools targeted for closure in the proposal by MGT America are Livsey, Medlock, Rock Chapel, Bob Mathis, Atherton, Glen Haven, Gresham Park, Sky Haven, Toney, Peachcrest, Wadsworth and Kittredge elementary schools, Avondale High School and Avondale Middle School.
“We’re going to have to close schools, that’s a given,” Walker said. “But we ought not close the ones that are performing well.”
Four of the 12 elementary schools on the list–Medlock, Atherton, Glen Haven and Gresham Park–failed to make AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) in 2010.
According to the proposal, which has two options, 27 schools in the county are at less than 75 percent occupancy and are not receiving state funding for some programs. Only two schools would be left at less than 75 percent occupancy in one scenario and one in the other.
The proposal would eliminate most of the 11,000 empty seats throughout the system. Also, the proposal calls for 12,000 to 16,100 students among the system’s 99,000 student body attending new schools next year.
Of the 21 schools with enrollments of less than 450, one scenario would leave no school with fewer than 450 students and the other would leave three, according to the proposal.
“All of our schools are not broken,” Walker said. “We need to keep the ones that are not broken intact and make sure they continue to do well. We’ve got to make a hard decision and I don’t believe hat every schools needs tampering with.”
Walker said he is in favor of keeping open Wadsworth, a magnet school.
“There are 160 students there and they are doing well,” Walker said. “But there aren’t enough students there to justify its existence. In my opinion, we need to find a way to fix Wadsworth to keep it open. We don’t need to close it or consolidate it.”
The proposal calls for the system to be redistricted into five super clusters.
A series of public workshops has been scheduled to help residents better understand the proposal and give them an opportunity to voice their opinions. The first two were scheduled for Jan. 18 at Miller Grove and Jan. 19 at Druid Hills Middle School. The remaining workshops are Jan. 20 at Chamblee High School, Jan. 25 at McNair High School, Jan. 26 at Bethune Middle School and Jan. 27 at Stone Mountain High School.
The superintendent will make a recommendation to the board on Feb. 7, then the board will hold public hearings on March 1 and March 3 before a final vote is taken on March 7.