Like every school year, this one begins with hope and anxiety around the cluster. Hope, because for many families the local public school represents opportunity when few other avenues seem open. Anxiety, because the recent dominant topic among parents and community members has been the egregious overcrowding and poor facilities conditions in the cluster.
Stretching from Fulton to Gwinnett counties, through Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville, Cross Keys families are served by 10 or more public schools, including charter and choice schools. With the exception of the new Chamblee High School, all area schools are characterized by aging and inadequate facilities.
The unprecedented allocation of nearly $200 million in e-SPLOST V funds to address overcrowding comes with both relief and anxiety, too.
As construction for three new schools and upgrades to others queue up in coming years, some families are losing their homes — in direct displacement in the case of the new elementary school for Doraville. Others are affected through indirect displacement through widespread gentrification in the region.
The new capacity will also bring changes to attendance lines, bringing more uncertainty.
This year, the nationwide issue of overcrowding and underfunding will haunt every school in the cluster. More temporary classrooms, also known as “trailers,” are being installed at Cross Keys High School on the athletic field. But overcrowding isn’t limited to Cross Keys – schools throughout north
DeKalb County are at or over capacity and growing. It’s not just a local problem, either.
Between 1990 and 2000, enrollment nationally increased by 14 percent. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the size of the student body across all U.S. classrooms will almost double by the year 2100. With 102,000 students returning to DeKalb County and hundreds of teacher vacancies remaining, our community faces continued overcrowding along with all its negative impacts.
At times like this, municipality leaders, community organizations, and all stakeholders need to come together to support our public schools and the dedicated educators who serve them. We are encouraged by the recent partnerships between the cities of Brookhaven and Doraville with DeKalb Schools.
We at the Cross Keys Foundation will continue to expand our scholarship programs around the region, invest directly in area classrooms via grants, distribute quality books via our Little Free Library program, and foster youth development at our middle and high schools by sponsoring Atlanta Urban Debate League teams.
With your support, and working together with other area stakeholders, we believe that in spite of the challenges, we can expand educational opportunities and positive outcomes for more children this year and every year.
For more about the Cross Keys Foundation see, CrossKeysFoundation.org.
Dia Parker and Kim Gokce are directors of the Cross Keys Foundation, which supports schools in the Cross Keys High School cluster.