Apartment property in Doraville purchased for elementary school

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More than 100 families to relocate as DeKalb County School District finalizes sales agreement

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) announced the purchase of 9.7 acres on 3630 Shallowford Road in Doraville on June 13 for the purpose of building a 900-seat Cross Keys-area elementary school, garnering mixed responses from the public.

 ““We are excited to add a state-of-the-art elementary school that will get our students out of portable units and into permanent classrooms, which is always our aim,” said DCSD Superintendent R. Stephen Green.

 According to district officials, DCSD’s board of education approved $8.2 million for the purchase of the property. DCSD will begin construction in 2018 with an estimated completion and opening date of fall 2020.

 DCSD officials said the new campus will provide relief to Dresden and Cary Reynolds elementary schools, which are “overcapacity and reliant of portable units” for classroom space. The two schools have 42 portable classrooms on school grounds.

 While the new school will address overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster—a problem in DeKalb County for more than a decade—some residents feel it’s the wrong location for a new school.

 The property is currently the site of Shallowford Gardens Apartments, a 104-unit complex offering one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 626 to 825 square feet. The majority of residents are served by DCSD’s Cary Reynolds Elementary, Sequoyah Middle and Cross Keys High schools.

The apartment complex is located less than a mile from a MARTA station and serves a population typical of Buford Highway, many of whom are low-income and non-English speaking.

 As of press time, the property manager and owner at Shallowford Gardens Apartments did not respond for comment.

 According to DCSD officials, tenants at Shallowford Gardens will be provided financial incentives by the district as well as apartment complex owners to help relocate.

 “We are mindful of the impact this work will have on families, many of whom have children enrolled in our schools,” Green said. “We plan to be good neighbors through this delicate process.”

 Former Cross Keys High teacher Rebekah Morris said she is speechless about the decision. She penned a lengthy blog post about the purchase on June 13 shortly after the announcement.

 Morris referenced DCSD’s process of neglect for the Cross Keys cluster for more than a decade, its “corralling” of students into almost 100 portables, redistricting students and its proposed displacement as “adding insult to injury.”

 “I simply don’t understand,” Morris said. “This is what I see, and maybe someone else can help me process this.”

 Morris said she would prefer to see DCSD work with the city of Doraville, DeKalb County board of commissioners and leaders of the Assembly project to negotiate an attractive deal for the district and constituents.

 She said, given the current decision, she would have liked to see DCSD participate in the Doraville tax allocation district (TAD) proposal to speed along development at the Assembly.

 “Instead, the district leadership took a very short-sighted approach with its refusal to participate in the TAD and now it is destroying the homes of the very people they were ostensibly “helping” by declining to participate in the intergovernmental agreement,” Morris said. “There are also older industrial/commercial properties that could have been utilized, but, for whatever reason, those options weren’t pursued far enough.”

 Board member Stan Jester, who posted about the purchase on his blog, hinted the apartment complex was having financial difficulties and that it’s possible the property was already on the verge of being sold and torn down.

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