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APS Redistricting: Schools Officials Nix Plan For Inman Sixth Grade Academy At Coan

Coan's closure is still an option, though.

The controversial plan to convert Coan Middle School into a is dead, Atlanta Public Schools officials said Friday.

"It's not happening at all," Betsy Bockman, APS' executive director of the cluster of schools that include Coan, told East Atlanta Patch.

But the plan to close Coan as APS seeks to reduce the number of number of empty seats in the district and relieve overcrowding is still in the mix.

The , developed by APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. and publicly released March 4, calls for its closure and 12 other schools.

Davis recommended the closure because Coan — Georgia's first established middle school — has room for 900 students but only has 319 enrolled pupils. Of that number, 53 are from outside the Coan zone, which includes Edgewood, Kirkwood, East Lake and East Atlanta.

Coan's kids would be rezoned to attend King Middle School some four miles away in Grant Park. The idea would save APS $6.5 million a year — or reduce losses by $500,000 per each school closed — APS says.

The more controversial part of the plan called for Coan to be converted into a sixth grade academy to alleviate overcrowding at Imnan Middle School in Virginia-Highland.

But Steve Smith, APS deputy superintendent, told parents the idea for an annex at Coan is dead.

"The decision and recommendation to close Coan was never intended to be a setup for Inman," Smith said Friday, speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of students, parents and Coan supporters, to discuss the closure.

Some audience members heckled and laughed in disbelief.

The superintnendent has said whether the sixth grade academy found a home at Coan or someplace else, Coan had to close because it was so under utilized.

It was a point Bockman reiterated with Coan parents.

Small schools such as Coan, Toomer and East Lake elementary schools are very hard to operate because of the low numbers, she said, noting the get less funding, which in turn results in fewer full-time resources such as counselors, social workers and assistant principals.

"With larger numbers, it would be better," Bockman said. "You're not going to have larger numbers in this community for a very long time."

While Coan parents and supporters don't want the school to close, they were more incensed at the idea that their children would be taken out their neighborhood school, so students of another community could use the facility.

Stung by the perception that they were seen as invaders kicking out Coan kids for their own children's benefit, Inman Middle parents, also objected to the idea. Some also opposed traveling to Coan because of its distance and traffic concerns.

Virginia-Highland Patch editor Jaclyn Hirsch contributed to this report.

Peace probability March 26, 2012 at 04:37 AM
@Greg Wilkinson, I moved to the Mary Lin district 18 years ago. We bought our first house when Inman Park was considered affordable (well under six figures). Lin was not a "desirable" school in '94, and neither was Inman. When my oldest child was born just after 2000, Lin was still under-enrolled and Title I. We seriously thought about moving, parochial, or home schooling. But the Mary Lin mafia was relentless - they sold us wrapping paper, got us to auctions and recruited people who didn't even have kids yet. I do not remember any call to siphon off students from Morningside Elementary, which was going over capacity at the time. Rather, they looked to their immediate neighbors. And that is what has made all the difference. Mary Lin does not have disproportionate resources from APS. The playground was planned, funded, constructed and maintained by parents. Library books are bought by parents and local businesses, as are science materials.and the list goes on. All APS schools are under funded. Kirkwood is a good 10 years behind in its upswing. Not very long ago Mary Lin needed bodies in seats, too. We looked to our immediate neighbors. My point is that you paint with much too broad a brush. Not only do I have those older kids, I also have a 4 year old. And I am not an anomaly in the Lin neighobrhoods.
Greg Wilkinson March 26, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Peace Probability, I truly appreciate your write-up and respect your opinion 100%. The communities south of the Marta line are indeed at least 10 years behind yours. We understand this. That is why we have put so much emphasis in Toomer to make it a good school so we can then work on Coan. Our need for bodies is critical to keep that dream alive and in no way is it directed at Lin. It just so happens that Lin is a viable solution to our under-enrollment that we have. This would never have been an issue if Davis didn't go off on a tangent closing our school. I've said before and I will say it again, if Lin were a bad school I would welcome them the same. It's about allowing us to continue the work we have done. Back when Lin had issues charter schools were not an option. Now it is and APS doesn't know how to compete with them. The same children, parents, and community members go to these schools and they are good schools. Instead of APS fixing the public schools here and make them competing schools to stop the charter takeover, APS backs away and the cycle continues. This is why we are yelling so loud to stop the trend, invest in the schools, fill them to reduce overcrowding, take the money saved and direct it to the actual education. None of this is a fight for certain kids and certain class of people, it's a fight to keep the school open and the movement going. That's all. Again, I really appreciate your response.
Lee March 26, 2012 at 03:46 PM
@Greg Wilkinson, my insight into the Coan community comes directly from a friend who has worked there for years. Compared to the true situation, my words have been kind. If YOU had children in school there, you would be a witness to the devastation imposed on children created by a lack of personal responsibility in their surrounding community. If YOU had any children, you would understand how damaging this is. Yes, I am mad because the academic and social standards of our community (and the entire country) is in rapid decline, while you and others like you perpetuate the problem by supporting policies (and redistricting proposals) that reinforce low standards, zero responsibility and utter failure - and expect me and others to keep quiet and continue to pay. If you think I am in the minority, think again - I just happen to tell you about it. Many of my other friends are busy making plans to get their kids into private schools.
Peace probability March 26, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Greg, You are correct that the charter school movement has thrown a wrench into SE Atlanta public schools. The question is whether the area will succumb and become a charter cluster, or take back the traditional public school model. Back when Lin was considered for closure, parents went door to door getting signatures from residents pledging that they would send their kids to Lin, either when they came of age or by pulling out of private. That WAS before my time (I think, because I don't remember anyone coming to my door for that). Armed with pledges, APS allowed Lin to stay open. I'm not sure how much that factored into the decision, but a similar effort for Coan certainly couldn't hurt. Given everything I heard Davis say, THAT would be the kind of thing that might persuade him to recommend keeping Coan open. You only have a few days, but if you could get pledges from at least 100 parents in your community that either have kids not yet of middle school age or who are currently in charter schools (and those would be the most effective) to attend Coan you will be able to say that you did everything humanly possible. (Signatures, addresses, phone numbers, age of their kids etc. - not a "petition"). My apologies if something similar is already underway.
Greg Wilkinson March 26, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Peace and Probability, Thank you once again for open and constructive dialog. We are working on the exact plan that you speak of. We are trying to rally the troops as best we can in such a short amount of time. The Coan closure came as a complete surprise and we had to act quick. Davis is very clear that we need butts in the seats and the community involved. Well, I think by kicking the hornets nest he got that. We are working on a comprehensive plan to make Coan a model middle school for future generations. We just ask for the chance to do what other schools such as Lin has done and our very own Toomer is on its way doing. With the charter schools nipping at our heals it makes the battle that much harder. In no way were we ever trying to take Lin down a path that would hurt it and the children. We do feel that the fiscally responsible thing to do is only build if truly needed. I would much rather see that money invested in the direct education of children across all of APS. I remember when Lin was not the Lin it is today. It's just sad that there has been so much negative venom calling me a racist or my community a failure because I am clawing to keep the school open and make it better. We are going to work hard at making Coan a great school and want people to look forward to coming to it. We just ask for the time if we commit to a plan. Thanks again for being a voice of reason in an unreasonable process.

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