APS Redistricting: The Battle For Coan Middle School
'We are being pushed out of our own neighborhood school.'
At the Atlanta Board of Education meeting Monday night, a parade of parents from the Kirkwood and Edgewood neighborhoods had one question: Why close their middle school, Coan, only to hand it over to the students of another community not even in the cluster?
The parents were reacting to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.'s redistricting recommendations that call for the closure of 13 schools.
Davis' proposal, released late Sunday night, would reduce the number of excess seats by 7,200. APS has 47,000 students, but a 60,000-student capacity.
It follows a series of proposed rezonings submitted the district's outside consulting firm.
That schools would close as the district seeks to reduce costs and the number of empty seats — particularly those that are underutilized — is no surprise.
Indeed, parents from the Edgewood community came together to save their grammar school, Whitefoord Elementary, from closure.
But the surprise, parents said, was to learn of Davis' recommendation that Coan, be closed and its 307 pupils be rezoned to King Middle in Grant Park, some four miles away.
Coan — the middle school that serves the Edgewood, Kirkwood, East Lake and East Atlanta neighborhoods — would be converted to a sixth-grade academy.
As such, it would serve to relieve overcrowding at Inman Middle School in Virginia-Highland.
That their kids be displaced and be made to attend a school three neighborhoods away so the children of another community could benefit was nothing less than offensive, parents said.
"Now, we are being pushed out of our own neighborhood school," Kirkwood resident and realtor Sally Alcock told Atlanta Board of Education members at Monday's meeting.
"Do not take our resources from our community and give it to another community so that community can stay status quo."
Board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, whose District 3 includes Coan and its feeder neighborhoods, told East Atlanta Patch she is not opposed to a sixth grade academy concept.
But she said she would not support the proposal if it means the exclusion of the children who are zoned to Coan's for those outside its feeder neighborhoods.
"I'm appalled," Harsch-Kinnane said of the idea in its current form. "I don't think we can use it without including the communities" Coan currently serves.
"I'm for a sixth-grade academy, but as I've said publicly, there has to be another way."
Bevin Carpenter Sr., community partnerships manager of Graduation Generation-Atlanta, which aims to reduce school drop-outs and is actively working in Coan, said Coan's parents never had a chance to advocate for their school.
Coan was never on the closures lists in any of the previous proposals, he told board members.
"It makes no sense for Virginia-Highland students to be bussed to Edgewood," Carpenter said, reading from a letter Coan parents sent to the BOE.
Maggie Stewart, another Kirkwood parent, said the merging of King and Coan's students further concentrates kids of lower socioeconomic status together.
What's more, Kirkwood would end up going to Jackson High School, a lower-performing school in Grant Park, rather than Grady High School in Midtown, one of the better-performing secondary institutions within APS.
"Giving away our middle school, taking away our high school — we're giving more than everybody. It seems like the wealthier and louder communities are getting exactly what they want," she said.
"Don't try to bus our children off and ignore them and try to sweep them under the carpet."
Parents from other East Atlanta Patch neighborhoods, namely Old Fourth Ward, were happy the superintendent’s proposals included one of their goals, which was to be zoned for Inman Middle School.
Representatives of another neighborhood, Summerhill, expressed their displeasure that their children, currently zoned to attend the underperforming Cook Elementary in Capitol Gateway, would be rezoned to D.H. Stanton in Peoplestown.
Cook closes under Davis' proposal, with its kids being divided among several schools. Summerhill parents, as did those in nearby Cabbagetown, wanted to be rezoned to Parkside Elementary in Grant Park.
Cabbagetown, which also is currently zoned to Cook, and preferred Parkside, too, would be redistricted to Whitefoord Elementary School in Edgewood.
Monday's meeting will be followed by a series of public input meetings around the district.
The Atlanta Board of Education is expected to vote on a final plan in April; the changes would become effective by the start of the 2012-13 academic year.