The DeKalb County school board will wait until January to vote on a plan for financing future building projects and attendance lines for schools.
The board postponed a Dec. 10 vote on the working draft of a plan for School Organization, Attendance Zone Adjustments, and Bond Financing for 2016-17, choosing instead to vote Jan. 7. A second vote on the final draft will be Jan. 23.
“The delay allows the DeKalb County School District staff time to incorporate already received public suggestions and refine the working draft. The board vote on Jan. 7 is to share the revised draft for public comment,” the school system said in an email.
The plan is being developed to apply to the state for funding that will be used in addition to SPLOST money for capital projects.
“The state does require that we have a plan with them that has certain pieces of information so we can qualify for state construction funds,” said school board member Nancy Jester, who represents Dunwoody.
But the plan also includes adjustments to the Dunwoody High School cluster’s attendance lines.
One of the school system’s scheduled projects is to tear down Austin Elementary School in Dunwoody. It is to be rebuilt as a 900-seat elementary school, making way for about 300 new students.
Austin Elementary School was identified as one of the top schools in need of rebuilding and was included on the project list to be funded by the county’s special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST. However, the current Austin Elementary site is smaller than the minimum the state now requires for new schools. County officials have not yet said if they will be able to build the new 900-seat school at the current site.
Stacey Harris, an Austin Elementary School parent, said the parents she’s talked to aren’t too concerned about the proposed attendance lines because they are so far into the future. When it comes to rebuilding the school, there are still two big questions: when and where.
“It certainly has not been discussed or decided to my knowledge,” Harris said. “It is still a tear down/rebuild, but they have not definitely said ‘yes, it will be built on site,’ or ‘no, it will not.’”
She said there are also questions about where Austin students will go while the school is being rebuilt. “I think everybody understands having a new school will be great. It’s just a painful process it will take to get there,” Harris said.
Jester said she is not in favor of including attendance lines in the state submittal process.
“So far in advance, why do we have to talk about and make decisions about attendance lines?” Jester said. “It seems there are so many variables that are going to change between now and five or six years from now.”
Jester pointed to several factors, including charter school legislation likely to be introduced in the state Legislature next year, which could make another redistricting discussion necessary in the future.
“The landscape could look vastly different,” Jester said. “There’s no reason to get the community involved in a discussion, and have everybody spend time and energy and get frustrated over something that is far from certain.”
Jester said school redistricting is a very sensitive topic that can cause a lot of people to become upset.
“If we don’t have to do that, I don’t want to waste anybody’s time,” Jester said. “Let’s be efficient, let’s be productive, and stick with what we have to present to the state.”