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APS Redistricting: Cabbagetown Advocates For Parkside Elementary

'We ask that our small but vibrant neighborhood not be lost in the shuffle.'

Editor's note: The Cabbagetown community has been advocating to be rezoned to Parkside Elementary School in Grant Park. The latest plans call for Cabbagetown's children to be rezoned to Whitefoord Elementary School in Edgewood. The Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association submitted this letter to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. and APS board members. CNIA shared its letter with East Atlanta Patch.

Dear Superintendent Davis and Distinguished Members of the Board,

The Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association wishes to thank board members Brenda Muhammad and Cecily Harsh-Kinnane for their continued support in our efforts to be zoned for Parkside Elementary. Additionally, we provide the following response to Superintendent Davis’ recommendations for Atlanta Public School zoning:

We have acknowledged the Superintendent’s recommendation that Cabbagetown be zoned for Whitefoord Elementary and have followed through by visiting Whitefoord for a guided tour with Principal Foster and an open house where he welcomed prospective parents. Additionally, we re-visited Parkside for a tour with Principal Luck. We remain steadfast in our advocacy for zoning to Parkside Elementary.

There is no APS school in Cabbagetown. So our position remains that our geographic, social, cultural and commercial bonds with Grant Park provide ample reason for us to be zoned for Parkside Elementary. In short:

  • Cabbagetown is geographically closer to Parkside than it is to Whitefoord. Zoning us for Whitefoord breaks the Superintendent’s guidelines to assign students to schools closest to their homes.
  • Cabbagetown hosts a campus of Grant Park Cooperative Pre-School so our children and families establish bonds from an early age. Zoning us for Whitefoord will break those bonds.
  • Historic ties are tight and our neighborhoods are intertwined. Grant Park Elementary sat on the site that is now Cabbagetown Park until 1976.
  • Our children participate in Grant Park sports leagues and music classes, swim in Grant Park pools and see pediatricians and dentists in Grant Park.

“Everybody wants to go to Parkside.” (-Superintendent Davis, 3/21/2012)
At the SRT3 Meeting on March 21st, Superintendent Davis intimated that he didn't zone us for Parkside Elementary because other neighborhoods also asked to be placed at Parkside. We understand that in a long night of Q&A this was a colloquial response to a tough issue but to be certain, this is false reasoning for denial of advocacy. Our understanding is that recommendations are to be based on the guiding principles as laid out by Superintendent Davis, including practical considerations such as zoning by proximity, using recognized neighborhood boundaries and the like. We support the guiding principles and urge their usage in the recommendations. As for Parkside’s popularity, we applaud APS, Dr. Luck and his faculty and staff for a job well done. The success of Parkside Elementary is to be celebrated and Cabbagetown wishes to join that tradition of success.

By no means is our wish that our INclusion in Parkside be the cause for EXclusion of any other community seeking the same districting but our small numbers present a unique case for Parkside districting. They also debunk the notion that Whitefoord Elementary can expect a notable enrollment base from Cabbagetown or that we can have a substantial impact on the viability of Whitefoord as an Atlanta Public School.

Crunching the numbers
Realizing that the entire redistricting process has been brought about by a need to make numbers work, Cabbagetown would like to assert the following:

  • Cabbagetown currently has fewer than 10 children in grades K-5 who are either home schooled or enrolled at Charter Schools.
  • According to Dr. Luck, 47% of the Parkside student population is out-of-zone transfers and they will be grandfathered in as the practice ceases. So starting with the Kindergarten class, Parkside will have increased capacity to absorb the constituents vying for that zoning. The enrollment concerns of the Cabbagetown community are primarily with the Kindergarten class and younger.
  • Cabbagetown has 3 rising Kindergartners that would enroll in Parkside in August 2012 (or roughly 0.4% of Parkside’s capacity).
  • Cabbagetown has 20 younger children currently in the neighborhood that could eventually enroll in Parkside over the next five years although typically we see some attrition of young families as they outgrow their homes.

Future concerns

  • It has been relayed to us by some close to the process that a concern exists regarding a population boom in Cabbagetown should we receive zoning for Parkside Elementary. Fears should be allayed by the rigorous National Historic Register designate guidelines that govern Cabbagetown. Our 6 block community of mostly 1 and 2 bedroom homes is governed by stringent guidelines that ensure things will stay that way. So while we seek an elementary school option that will encourage young families to stay in Cabbagetown, we are confident that the relatively small size of homes will keep the population in check. In short, Parkside will never be pushed to capacity on behalf of Cabbagetown.
  • Additionally we have been told that Whitefoord Elementary needs the influx of the Cabbagetown population to remain open. There is no numerical case to support this rationale. At most, 3 Kindergartners from Cabbagetown will be joining APS this fall. The success or failure of Whitefoord Elementary cannot and will not hinge on a scant few children from our small neighborhood, two communities removed from the school itself.

Summary

We ask that our small but vibrant neighborhood not be lost in the shuffle. We ask that this current process result in a renewed excitement for Atlanta Public Schools. We ask that that we be zoned to the school that is both closest to home geographically and the one with which we have existing bonds. We ask that we be zoned for Parkside Elementary.

Thank you all for your time and professional rigor throughout this process.

Sincerely,

Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association
177 Estoria St. SE
Atlanta, GA 30316

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