Editor’s Note: Atlanta International School, a private school on Buckhead’s North Fulton Drive, has become a prominent advocate for housing affordability in recent months, including by intervening directly in the luxury redevelopment of a neighboring townhome complex on Delmont Drive by purchasing one of the units. The Reporter asked Head of School Kevin Glass to explain why affordability is a concern for AIS.
I’ve lived in Atlanta for almost 12 years now. Despite my British accent and love of Newcastle United Football Club, this city is truly home to me and my family. It’s where our two older children have grown up, where our youngest was born and where my wife and I live and work.
One of the many things that I love about Atlanta International School (AIS) is its location. I look out of the upper windows of our historic buildings and I can see the city spreading out in all its vibrancy, rising out of the trees.
This school is deliberately not tucked away from urban life or located in a more spacious suburb of Atlanta. AIS, by virtue of our unique geography, is actively part of a living, breathing local community. And with that comes huge privilege, but also challenges for those who work at and attend the school.
Since I became head of this school in August 2009, my family and I have been lucky enough to live in the beautiful Garden Hills neighborhood that surrounds our campus. From here we can walk to school and enjoy the benefits of proximity to local friends and the neighborhood’s amenities.
But I am very aware that this is no longer an option for many of our AIS community. The change in our neighborhood has been dramatic.
The facts speak for themselves: As of 2016, 98% of Buckhead area employees commuted to and from the district from outside of Buckhead. The jobs-to-housing imbalance is a primary contributor to Buckhead’s traffic congestion.
So as a school we clearly support strategies to preserve and develop affordable housing for the service professionals such as teachers and first responders. To that end, AIS owns and intends to preserve, as affordable housing, two units in the neighborhood — one in the Delmont Homes development and a house near to the campus.
This is part of a long-term strategy which benefits both the school, the neighborhood and the wider community. It is an example of the sort of intentionally inclusive approach to housing we would like to see become more widespread across our rapidly growing city.
As an active member of many community groups whose focus is to improve the quality of life for those who live, work and play in Buckhead, I would love to see a future where more of our employees and other essential workers can live closer to their place of work. To reduce the pressure on their busy lives, the stress of commuting long distances, the environmental impact and to make the opportunities that this city has to offer more accessible.
As a school, we bring families together from across Atlanta, the U.S. and around the globe. The values of acceptance and helping people be the best version of themselves sits at the core of what we do.
This focus on local affordability might feel counterintuitive for an independent school that charges a significant annual tuition fee. But we work as much as is within our reach to offer need-based financial aid to all who require it. And we have ambitious plans to grow our support and community participation rates to increase this further.
I believe that through giving more students the opportunity to experience the academic excellence of our International Baccalaureate (IB) program, everyone benefits. The IB requires voice, choice and agency from its students. We see this translated into real-world action as we look at keeping our part of town accessible.
As part of a coalition of the willing working to keep our neighborhood open and viable, I believe that this is possible — through partnership with those in our city who share this aspiration.
So with the Atlanta International School mission statement at the forefront of my mind, let’s be “courageous leaders” in this area of civic responsibility — starting here at home, in Buckhead.