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APS Redistricting: Jackson And Grady Cluster Parents Seek Answers

Superintendent addresses questions ranging from why blame parents for failing schools to overhead at APS' central office to perceived neglect of Southeast Atlanta.

Marking his third of four public engagements since releasing his preliminary redistricting plan, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. met with hundreds of parents, students and teachers in the Jackson and Grady high schools clusters Wednesday night.

Davis answered scores of questions from the audience during a marathon 4-hour-plus meeting at Jackson High School, the last 30 minutes of which was held in the dark after a transformer malfunctioned.

Though Jackson and Grady draw from neighborhoods Southeast and Northeast Atlanta, respectively, the bulk of questions came from supporters of in Edgewood, for closure.

Under Davis' plan, the closures — which also include shuttering East Lake Elementary School, Thomasville Heights Elementary School and in Capitol Gateway — would save APS $6.5 million a year and reduce overcapacity by 7,200 seats.

The redistricting is necessary because APS has capacity for 60,000 students but only has 47,000 pupils. Another 3,000 attend publicly funded charter schools.

Some Coan parents wanted to know how much attention Davis and his senior team paid to the school's private partnerships, such as the Zeist Foundation.

Others took exception to a part of Davis' opening statement that involved parents are a driving factor driving the success of some schools. While those parents agreed parental involvement is critical, they said it was APS' failure to fund Southeast Atlanta schools with the resources needed that lead to enrollment declines and why so many have flocked to charter schools.

Meanwhile, parents from Cook Elementary said they could not understand why their kids were going to be sent to four different schools, when the Cook building is newer.

They also expressed concerns about the condition of one of those schools, D.H. Stanton Elementary in Peoplestown.

Davis sought to allay their concerns about the school by telling them the district is committed to making all schools better by giving them the resources they need and that Stanton in particular, would not look like it does now.

As for concerns regarding teaching and leadership staffs at schools recommended for closure, Davis said those APS employees wouldn't necessarily lose their jobs if their school closed.

Conversely, a school he recommends to stay open and rezoned to take students from schools he wants to close won't necessarily keep its leadership and teaching staffs.

Davis said he would release his student population projection numbers that served as the basis for his recommendations within the next several days.

Parents can continue to provide comments to APS through March 30.

After that, Davis expects to make a final recommendation to the board in early April.

The Atlanta Board of Education is slated to vote on the final recommendation April 10.

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