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The APS Redistricting Debate: Kirkwood Residents Develop An Alternative Plan

Goal: Keep neighborhoods intact

Joe and Sally Alcock are the type of involved parents many schools would love to have.

The Alcocks, who live in Kirkwood, have been involved in their neighborhood school, Toomer Elementary, even before they had kids.

The school doesn't enjoy the academic records of others located in East Atlanta Patch such as Drew Charter in East Lake, Mary Lin in Candler Park and the Neighborhood Charter School, which serves Grant Park and Ormewood Park.

In the most recent statewide ranking of Georgia's 1,176 elementary schools, Toomer placed 817 based on 2010 combined math and language arts standardized test scores.

But Joe Alcock, former president of the Kirkwood Neighbors Organization and other Kirkwood residents like him, believe long-term involvement in their local neighborhood school whether or not you have children can only help make it better.

It's the recipe credited with Mary Lin Elementary's turn-around as longtime Atlantans remember it wasn't always considered a desirable school.

"We've been involved," he said explaining the family joined the Toomer Parent Teacher Association even before their two daughters, who are now in preschool and pre-kindergarten, were born.

"We knew we wanted kids and wanted to stay in the community," Alcock, who is on the KNO's Education Committee said.

That community spirit is what's fueled the recent drive — as it has in other neighborhoods — to come up with alternatives to four preliminary proposals Atlanta Public Schools is considering that could .

The main driver of the changes is some schools, such as Mary Lin, are over crowded, while others, such as Toomer, are about 55 percent full.

One of the options has Toomer, which has 272 students, merging with Mary Lin, which has 560 pupils.

Mary Lin parents aren't too keen on that scenario.

KNO's Education Committee has met a number of times in the last few weeks to craft what it calls "Option 5," which Alcock said aims to keep neighborhoods intact and if schools have to merge, combine those that make the most sense for the students.

Option 5 presents these scenarios:

Elementary Schools:

  • Merge Toomer and East Lake elementary schools with the combined number of students going to Toomer. (The four options being considered by APS all call for East Lake's closure.)
  • Mary Lin Elementary would serve Inman Park, Candler Park and Lake Claire.
  • KNO has not taken a position on Parkside, Hope-Hill, Benteen, Springdale or Cook elementary schools.

Middle School:

  • Coan Middle School would be the feeder school serving Mary Lin, Whitefoord, Burgess-Peterson, East Lake and Toomer elementary schools.

High School:

When Crim High School, which served Kirkwood and East Lake residents, was converted in 2005 to an alternative high school for kids needing different education arrangements, Kirkwood and East Lake were zoned to be in the Grady High School cluster. (A small portion of East Lake was zoned for Jackson High School in Grant Park.) Option 5 has those Coan Middle School students who come from Toomer, East Lake, Hope-Hill and Mary Lin elementary schools zoned to attend Grady High School.

Alcock said their plan is designed to keep neighborhoods from being split as the four options APS is considering do.

"I was opposed Option 4, which split our neighborhood, even though I was zoned on the Mary Lin side," he said. "It’s not all about my kid, it’s about what's most responsible for all the children."

ESL January 27, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Does anyone in Kirkwood understand the history of your neighbors to the north? We had 4 APS schools closed in the corridor between Dekalb and Ponce that could have solved our overcrowding issues at ML & Inman & Grady had APS done a better job of planning. How on earth can Kirkwood rationally argue to keep your 6 APS facilities open ( Eastlake Toomer, Burgess Peterson, Coan, Crim and Drew) and not spend SPlost funds on the ML sector? APS has an operational deficit and it is not part of capital improvement budgets. The way you solve operations deficit is to close schools. TOOMER should be the first on the chopping block in spite of it's connections to APS admin. Just recently 4000 tons of lead contaminated soil was treated in Pullman Yards (http://www.smeinc.com/pullman-yards-train-maintenance-facility-for-gba) with an APS facility downhill and right next door. This was a known hazardous site for years. I would suggest legal action on behalf of Kirkwood for all those years APS knew of lead contamination in property adjacent to Toomer. You can probably reach a class action out of court settlement send all your kids to private school. Folks connected to APS could have encouraged this whole redistricting exercise and mitigated the neighborhood divisiveness by addressing the APS facilities deficit in our ML area from the beginning. With no schools and little representation within APS this amounts to taxation without representation. ML neighborhoods are not happy.
Patrik Jonsson January 27, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I agree that APS bears the brunt of the responsibility for this godawful mess. But here we are, and it's no good looking back now. Whether the Mary Lin arguments will offset the broader issue of deep inequity in the system -- and, ultimately, whether to wall off predominantly wealthier neighborhoods from poorer ones -- is unfortunately the bottom line issue at hand. No matter who is to blame, that's the the problem for all of us to solve, hopefully together.
Patrik Jonsson January 27, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Oh, and a couple of corrections and clarifications. The pollution problem at Pullman Yard, as your link indicates, has been cleaned up. Plus, it's hard to file a lawsuit when there's no evidence, over decades, of any actual related health problems, at least that I've ever been able to unearth after looking at the issue at some depth. I do, after all, send my son there. Also, I don't know of anyone advocating to keep all the schools on the south side of the tracks open. Most people down here, I'm pretty sure, realizes that one or more have to close.
Patrik Jonsson January 28, 2012 at 03:09 AM
The facts about Pullman Yard "pollution," from a resident who looked into it and posted it in response to another similar comment thread: "I spoke to Donna K. Seadler from the EPA. She is the person who came to Toomer on April 15th, 2011 and was actually able to access Pullman Yards from Toomer that day, as was requested. The principal did call someone from APS facilities, as is protocol, and they came right away, because they are just around the corner, and granted the EPA full access. On June 17th, 2011 Toomer was tested for lead and other substances and given the all clear. "No levels of lead above regional screening levels or regional action levels" Same for other substances. Donna also said she had provided this information previously when someone from Lake Claire had posted something similar on another site last year. Your intentions are clear and downright mean. I would ask David Rein to remove this entire thread as the headline is completely misleading and your intention is to create fear when there is no reason for it. Donna gave me permission to post her contact information here and is hoping to get a fact sheet prepared with the results of the testing and all pertinent information. In the meantime you, or anyone else may contact her. Donna K. Seadler Remedial Project Manager Superfund Division seadler.donna.epa.gov 404-562-8870
ESL January 28, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Why did APS keep a school open next to a known super fund site? That is more than mean that is criminal. Why did Kirkwood neighbors statement direct an option to pull ML into COAN? If they were so worried about APS budget considerations they could have suggested closing more schools in Kirkwood area- where there is a plethora of half empty schools.

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