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APS Board Tables Drew Charter's High School Plan

School board to take up issue again in July; Drew supporters make the case for an expansion.

Supporters of a plan to create in East Lake will have to wait until next month to see if the Atlanta Public Schools' Board of Education will vote to grant their request.

At the BOE's June 4th meeting, board members voted to table discussion on the plan until its July meeting.

Board Chairman Reuben R. McDaniel III, suggested tabling the measure, saying there were a handful of questions regarding the proposal that remain, including its attendance zone and total number of students.

Drew's current zone is grouped into three tiers:

Tier 1: (Primary neighborhood): Villages of East Lake

Tier 2: (Secondary neighborhoods): East Lake and Kirkwood

Tier 3: (Tertiary neighborhoods): the rest of the city of Atlanta

The majority of 's current 880 students come from the Villages of East Lake, an area oughly bounded by the and the East Lake Golf Club to the west and east, Memorial Drive to the north and an area just south of Glenwood Avenue between Dancing Fox and Lomita roads.

The attendance zone boundaries for the proposed high school would not change.

As for enrollment at the proposed high school, Drew officials have already said it would have 600 students by 2023, when it is expected to be at full capacity.

If granted, Drew Senior Academy would expand on a tiered basis, opening with just a 9th grade class of 100 students in the 2013-14 school year.

The Drew Senior Academy would be erected off the southwestern corner of Memorial Drive and 2nd Avenue. It would be paid for at no cost to APS because the school aims to raise the funds through private donations.

Some Drew supporters questioned the need for more information when they made presentations to APS officials last month.

They noted schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. has already recommended that the board vote against it saying it would draw students from traditional public schools, notably in Grant Park.

"The school superintendent came to this meeting with a recommendation to close it but we're happy to provide them with more information," Lillian C. Giornelli, chairwoman of the East Lake Foundation and a director on the Cousins Properties Inc. board, told East Atlanta Patch during a break in the meeting.

"This is a great opportunity in our view," she said. "What we want to do is help Southeast Atlanta and to see Southeast Atlanta become a community of educational choice and a destination school and the leading cluster in the city of Atlanta."

Alice Jonsson, a Kirkwood parent at Toomer Elementary School in Kirkwood and member of the Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools, told board members it's not a Drew vs. APS situation.

Some parents will prefer charters, others traditional schools, she said. Some parents have tried charter schools, she said, only to find that they didn't work for their children.

"Drew is appealing to some and not to others and that's why I don't panic about this," Jonsson said. "Let's not assume everyone is flocking to charters, or that if they are, that they will stay in them."

Kyle Caldwell, an East Lake parent and board member of the East Lake Neighbors Community Association, also expressed frustration at the vote delay.

"We see Drew Senior Academy as another quality choice for our children," Caldwell said. "I have no idea how these folks cannot see the value of what we're bringing to the table. It baffles me and if they think we're done fighting, they've got another thing coming."

Despite the decision to table it to next month, several parents and supporters of the move for a high school expansion at Drew spoke to board members to advocate for a "yes" vote.

Please click on the video to hear parents' and supporters' reasons behind the Drew Charter Senior Academy initiative.

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