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APS Redistricting: Wesley International Academy Wants To Utilize Cook Campus

WIA parents create petition to draw attention and support for move.

A group of parents at Wesley International Academy in Custer/McDonough/Guice have started a petition to convince Atlanta Public Schools officials that the public charter school should be allowed to move in to Cook Elementary School.

Cook, which is a few miles away from Wesley's current home on Custer Avenue SE, is one of seven APS schools that will close at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

"According to Superintendent Davis, the 'sole purpose' of closing Cook Elementary and other schools was the 'improvement of the education delivered to students every day,' " the petition reads. "Wesley pays $875,000.00 in rent to a real estate company in Virginia. If Wesley moves to a closed school, this $875,000.00 can improve education for APS students who attend Wesley rather than going to a real estate company in Virginia."

APS officials say no final decision has yet been made.

"APS is considering a number of recommendations for re-purposing school buildings impacted by the recent redistricting initiative, including the Wesley International Academy recommendation," district spokesman Keith Bromery told Patch.

"The district committee headed by Associate Superintendent Steve Smith will consider all of them, as the effort to fully utilize all district buildings continues."

The petition, which had 245 signors by late Monday afternoon, comes as parents will make their case at APS Board of Education's 6 p.m., May 14th community meeting.

Andrea Knight, the Grant Park parent who started the petition and whose children attend Wesley, told East Atlanta Patch the move makes sense on several levels.

For one, 11 percent of Wesley's 620 students came from Cook's attendance zone, which included the Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown, Capitol Gateway and Summerhill neighborhoods.

The Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, that neighborhood's association already has voiced its support of using Cook's campus on Memorial Drive and Kelly Street SE as Wesley's new home.

One-third of Wesley's kids are within three miles of Cook, she said. Other schools that APS has slated for closure are either too far, are out of the Jackson High School cluster or both, she said.

Wesley is an International Baccalaureate school — an academically challenging course of study. Jackson High School, in Grant Park, expects to gain final approval from the International Baccalaureate Organization by 2013, making it the district’s second IB high school.

APS is considering using Cook's facilities as additional office space for the district and teacher training site because of its proximity to Georgia State University.

But Knight said APS has closed schools in Old Fourth Ward that are much closer to GSU than Cook.

She also said it doesn't make sense for Wesley to continue to spend $875,000 a year — roughly 12 percent of its annual budget — in rent to another company when that money could be going back into APS.

Charter schools are independently run but are still subject to APS' rules and regulations and their students are counted as APS students.

"[APS Superintendent Erroll B.] Davis forgets that our kids are APS kids, too," Knight said.

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