UPDATED: APS Board Of Ed Votes To Rezone Summerhill To Parkside Elementary
But board fails to take action on Custer/McDonough/Guice, which remains the only neighborhood split-zoned to two grammar schools.
The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education — following more than an hour of discussion from the public and board members — voted Monday to rezone Summerhill to Parkside Elementary in Grant Park.
Meister, a real estate agent, did not directly explain her no vote. But in an e-mail to East Atlanta Patch, she said she does support D.H. Stanton Elementary, the school Summerhill was slated to attend.
"I believe that with support from the system and community D.H. Stanton will be a great school for all children. The residents of the Peoplestown community are dedicated to building this school and it is my hope that an early learning center will be a major part of this," Meister wrote in her e-mail.
"I am excited about the opportunity that exists here and personally want to be an active, hands on partner with my colleague, Brenda Muhammad in participating in DH Stanton's success."
Summerhill had been zoned to attend Parkside, following months of pressure on APS officials and board members. The work paid off. The request was reflected in Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.'s final set of recommendations.
But when board members voted April 10 to close just seven schools instead of 10 schools, district officials changed the attendance zone of Summerhill from Parkside and into D.H. Stanton in Peoplestown.
D.H. Stanton, one of the schools on the closure list, has 230 students in a school built to accommodate 726 pupils.
APS officials changed Summerhill to D.H. Stanton's attendance zone because it said that made fiscal sense give its under enrollment. The district argued that by adding Summerhill's student population, D.H. Stanton would still be under enrolled, but it would be eligible for additional resources and funding.
Davis reiterated that point during the meeting.
"The programming options for very small schools turn out to be less than for larger schools," Davis said.
By closing seven schools, when Davis initially wanted 13 shuttered before scaling it back to 10, the district still has plenty of what the rezoning was meant to address: under enrolled schools.
Indeed, eight of the nine schools that ultimately feed into Jackson High remain under enrolled under the new attendance zones.
The recommended closures were designed to redeploy savings from those ceased operations to the schools that would remain open.
"The fewer we close, the fewer resources we have to redeploy."
By failing to address the under enrollment issue more aggressively, the board essentially guarantees APS will have to revisit the issue again in three or four years, Davis said.
And the board risks undermining the very schools, like D.H. Stanton, because they will remain under enrolled and eligible for fewer resources, the superintendent said.
"I also don't want Stanton and the Peoplestown community to be working thinking that we're setting up the school for failure."
For their part, D.H. Stanton and Peoplestown supporters say they have a turnaround plan for the school, which underperforms academically.
But Summerhill parents said they didn't think it was fair to use their children to fill a near-empty school.
What's more, they said APS was moving their neighborhood from Capitol Gateway's Cook Elementary School, one of the worst academically performing schools in the state, to D.H. Stanton, which is even worse.
Cook, which the board voted to close at the end of this school year, is ranked 1,081st out of the state's 1,178 elementary schools, based on 2011 standardized test scores.
D.H. Stanton is ranked 1,098th.
Parkside is ranked 674th.
"We're the only neighborhood being zoned down," Summerhill parent Suzanne Mitchell said before the board's vote. "Summerhill deserves a performing school. The neglect that we have seen is really immoral...Our children are really being shuttled around like garbage."
Summerhill residents in attendance at the APS board meeting left happy having received what they wanted.
But the Custer/McDonough/Guice community remains split-zoned between two schools — Benteen Elementary and Parkside.
The neighborhood wants to be in the Jackson High School cluster and gets it in the final attendance zone plan the board approved.
But while the entire neighborhood is zoned to attend King Middle and Jackson High schools, Custer/McDonough/Guice is split at the elementary school level.
Under the new attendance zone maps, which are to be enacted in the coming school year, the area of Custer/McDonough/Guice south of Custer Avenue SE is zoned to Benteen. The area of the neighborhood north of Custer is now zoned for Parkside.
The neighborhood has 80 kids from pre-school age to fifth grade. Alfred L. Brooks II, a Custer/McDonough/Guice father, asked the board to reconsider the split zoning and have the entire community wholly zoned to one elementary school.
But board members, including Brenda J. Muhammad, who lives in the part of Custer/McDonough/Guice now zoned for Parkside, did not address his concerns.
When Davis presented his guiding principles for the rezoning, one of them was to avoid splitting neighborhoods.
Grant Park and Custer/McDonough/Guice are both split to different elementary schools, under the attendance zones currently in place.
The new attendance zones unifies all of Grant Park to Parkside, a courtesy Brooks said he wished the board had extended to Custer/McDonough/Guice.
"I'm glad they brought us into the Jackson cluster, which is what we had been fighting for," Brooks told East Atlanta Patch. "It would have been better if they kept the entire neighborhood together rather than continuing the split of the neighborhood on the northside."
The neighborhood, he said, will continue to press to be zoned to a single elementary school.