As a community, East Lake is breathing a measured sigh of relief in the wake of the final redistricting plan developed by Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.
The plan, released Saturday, closes 10 schools, including East Lake Elementary.
Though East Lake wanted the elementary school to remain open and stay in the Grady High School cluster, this plan does neither. It does, however, keep the community's middle school, Coan, open.
An earlier plan had Coan closing, something the community opposed, as well as a proposal that children zoned to attend East Lake Elementary would attend Burgess-Peterson Academy in East Atlanta because it meant crossing some high-traffic volume roadways including I-20 and Memorial Drive.
This final plan has East Lake Elementary's students being rezoned to attend Toomer Elementary School in neighboring Kirkwood.
East Atlanta Patch spoke with Kat Lindholm, president of the East Lake Neighbors Community Association, to get a sense of the neighborhood's reaction to this final plan, which the APS Board of Education is expected to vote on April 10.
Q: East Lake wanted to remain in the Grady cluster but this final plan has the neighborhood in Jackson and going to Jackson High School.
A: We lost Grady, but the fact that they are really focusing on Jackson — there's going to an International Baccalaureate program at Jackson and Coan — I'm really excited and hopeful with [Karen Walden] the new leader of the schools curriculum. She seems extremely engaged and I'm looking forward to making this a robust curriculum.
Q: East Lake was heard in its desire to keep Coan Middle open But East Lake Elementary closes. What's your reaction to that?
A: We were prepared for that. We're happy they're going to Toomer and not Burgess-Peterson. There are a lot of engaged parents at Toomer along with engaged parents at East Lake. While we're sad East Lake Elementary is closing, we understand the process. We are pleasantly surprised how they're going to handle it by having students from Coan go there for a year, giving it another year of use. It's helpful because it allows the community of East Lake to have another year to figure out what to do with the property.
Q: The redistricting has been quite a cantankerous process and has pitted neighborhoods against one another. Do you think when this is all over that those divisive feelings will subside and neighborhoods will become more united
A: It's going to take time — any issue that is so divisive — to know whether or not that people will come together or co-exist. I experienced something similar personally. My father was a pilot for Eastern Airlines and at one point there was a decision made to go on strike. My father made a decision not to strike and this was in a town where there we lots of pilots. We had some folks who wouldn't talk us again.
Q: The neighborhoods — East Lake, Kirkwood and Edgewood — really mobilized quickly after the preliminary plan that called for Coan to close, when that wasn't on anyone's radar. It seems like the neighborhoods spoke and APS listened.
A: We are very pleased with the fact that they heard us and the kids. It’s also the fact that you have kids that are fighting the fight and showing their maturity. At the last meeting, they got up and asked really good questions and showed themselves to be different than how children who attend Coan are seen. I was proud when I left that meeting. I was really pleased; they were fighting in the appropriate way.
Q: The redistricting issue has created a groundswell of involvement and interest from parents and other interested parties. Will that interest be sustained or will it wane?
A: There will be some people for whom it will wane, but I do know the commitment from the community is there. I think for many people — as parents and as community members — it's going to continue to foster involvement. There’s going to be so much more involvement because we almost lost it.