Joe and Sally Alcock are the type of involved parents many schools would love to have.
The Alcocks, who live in Kirkwood, have been involved in their neighborhood school, Toomer Elementary, even before they had kids.
The school doesn't enjoy the academic records of others located in East Atlanta Patch such as Drew Charter in East Lake, Mary Lin in Candler Park and the Neighborhood Charter School, which serves Grant Park and Ormewood Park.
In the most recent statewide ranking of Georgia's 1,176 elementary schools, Toomer placed 817 based on 2010 combined math and language arts standardized test scores.
But Joe Alcock, former president of the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization and other Kirkwood residents like him, believe long-term involvement in their local neighborhood school whether or not you have children can only help make it better.
It's the recipe credited with Mary Lin Elementary's turn-around as longtime Atlantans remember it wasn't always considered a desirable school.
"We've been involved," he said explaining the family joined the Toomer Parent Teacher Association even before their two daughters, who are now in preschool and pre-kindergarten, were born.
"We knew we wanted kids and wanted to stay in the community," Alcock, who is on the KNO's Education Committee said.
That community spirit is what's fueled the recent drive — as it has in other neighborhoods — to come up with alternatives to four preliminary proposals Atlanta Public Schools is considering that could merge some schools and close others.
The main driver of the changes is some schools, such as Mary Lin, are over crowded, while others, such as Toomer, are about 55 percent full.
One of the options has Toomer, which has 272 students, merging with Mary Lin, which has 560 pupils.
Mary Lin parents aren't too keen on that scenario.
KNO's Education Committee has met a number of times in the last few weeks to craft what it calls "Option 5," which Alcock said aims to keep neighborhoods intact and if schools have to merge, combine those that make the most sense for the students.
Option 5 presents these scenarios:
- Merge Toomer and East Lake elementary schools with the combined number of students going to Toomer. (The four options being considered by APS all call for East Lake's closure.)
- Mary Lin Elementary would serve Inman Park, Candler Park and Lake Claire.
- KNO has not taken a position on Parkside, Hope-Hill, Benteen, Springdale or Cook elementary schools.
- Coan Middle School would be the feeder school serving Mary Lin, Whitefoord, Burgess-Peterson, East Lake and Toomer elementary schools.
When Crim High School, which served Kirkwood and East Lake residents, was converted in 2005 to an alternative high school for kids needing different education arrangements, Kirkwood and East Lake were zoned to be in the Grady High School cluster. (A small portion of East Lake was zoned for Jackson High School in Grant Park.) Option 5 has those Coan Middle School students who come from Toomer, East Lake, Hope-Hill and Mary Lin elementary schools zoned to attend Grady High School.
Alcock said their plan is designed to keep neighborhoods from being split as the four options APS is considering do.
"I was opposed Option 4, which split our neighborhood, even though I was zoned on the Mary Lin side," he said. "It’s not all about my kid, it’s about what's most responsible for all the children."