After weeks of discussion and contentious debate, Atlanta Public Schools released its two options for school closures and realignment.
The proposals, developed by an outside demographics consulting firm, bring about one of the biggest changes to affect 46,000-student district in more than a decade.
A key driver of the redistricting issue has been the elementary schools because several in East Atlanta Patch, such as Toomer Elementary in Kirkwood, are under-enrolled, while others, such as Mary Lin in Candler Park, are overcrowded.
The purpose of the redistricting was to redraw the lines to ease the overcrowding and prepare for an expected population boom in several neighborhoods.
Under Option A, the demographers' recommendations for the schools in East Atlanta Patch are to:
- Expand Candler Park's Mary Lin Elementary by 176 seats.
These schools would close:
- Cook Elementary in the Capitol Gateway neighborhood or Hope-Hill Elementary in Old Fourth Ward because either has the capacity to serve the combined student bodies
- East Lake Elementary in East Lake; students rezoned to Toomer Elementary
- Whitefoord Elementary in Edgewood; students rezoned to Burgess-Peterson Academy in East Atlanta Village
- Thomasville Heights Elementary in Thomasville Heights; students rezoned to Benteen Park Elementary in Benteen
Under Option B, the demographers' recommendations for the schools in East Atlanta Patch are to:
- Keep Mary Lin Elementary as is
These schools would close:
- Cook Elementary or Hope-Hill Elementary
- East Lake Elementary; students rezoned to Burgess-Peterson Academy
- Thomasville Heights Elementary; students rezoned to Benteen Park Elementary
The demographers also have an alternative under Option B for Mary Lin, which is to have it combine with Toomer Elementary under a split campus system where one school would be a K-1 and the other 2-5.
The demographers note that the suggested zones feeding Mary Lin and Toomer are drawn so the total K-5 student population would be enough to bring both to full capacity. It would be up to APS to determine how to split the grades.
One of the biggest concerns for Mary Lin parents in the earlier drafts was having their children zoned out of the cluster that feeds to Inman Middle in Virginia-Highland and then on to Grady High School in Midtown.
Grady is one of the district's best-performing high schools.
Under both options, Mary Lin stays in the Grady cluster.
"Based on a quick review of the options as they relate to the schools my children are currently zoned into, I will say that, as a parent and a resident of Lake Claire, I personally am grateful that the demographers appear to have listened to the concerns and educational goals voiced by the residents of my neighborhood," said Sherry V. Neal, a Mary Lin parent.
"Upon review of the maps, I hope to find that other neighborhoods' concerns were similarly heard and addressed."
Under the earlier draft proposals, Burgess-Peterson Academy in East Atlanta Village was slated to either close or merged with Toomer as a split campus.
"I am pleased that these new options do not close Burgess-Peterson or that we are not in a split elementary feeder," said Elisabeth Burgess, who chairs Burgess-Peterson's Local School Council.
Burgess-Peterson parents .
Under the new proposals, though, kids from Whitefoord or East Lake Elementary would be rezoned to attend Burgess-Peterson.
"In either case, it is an influx of students from a community which is separated by the physical and psychological barrier of I-20," Burgess said. "While our preference would be to grow our population from within the current boundaries of BPA, I recognize that may not be a viable option.
"In the coming weeks, the BPA community plans to dialogue with our neighbors in surrounding communities to educate them about the excellent resources that we currently have at BPA and explore how and if we could work together for the students of APS in our neighborhoods," Burgess said.
Some East Lake residents may be upset because half of that community is zoned to attend Grady High School, under current APS zoning. The other half is zoned to attend Jackson High in Grant Park, an underperforming school.
But under these two plans, the entire neighborhood is zoned to attend Jackson.
Neighboring Kirkwood was zoned to attend Grady, but under Option A, the neighborhood is rezoned for Jackson.
Option B sends the portion of the neighborhood north of Oakview Road SE and Hosea Williams Drive NE and east of Rogers Street SE to Grady. The rest of Kirkwood would be zoned for Jackson.