Cross Keys High trailers spark debate

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The decision to place a number of portable classrooms on an athletic field at Cross Keys High School——located at 1626 N Druid Hills Rd NE in Brookhaven—has sparked discussion and interest in DeKalb County School District (DCSD).

 On Aug. 19, former Cross Keys teacher Rebekah Cohen Morris posted an image of 8 to 10 portable classrooms on a Cross Keys High School athletic field.

 “These are a few of the 23 [portable classrooms] on the property of Cross Keys,” Morris stated in a caption. “Where do they practice football? Where do they do [physical education]?”

 Morris’s picture sparked a discussion on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with fellow DCSD stakeholders and district officials, including board of education member Stan Jester. Among other comments, Jester pointed out Lakeside High School currently has portable classrooms on its tennis court and that Chamblee Charter High School expects to receive approximately 10 trailers in the next few years.

 Jester also said the trailers are necessary to convert Cross Keys High into Cross Keys Middle, as approved by DCSD’s E-SPLOST project list this year.

 “The trailers at Cross Keys High School aren’t a function of overcrowding, but the conversion from a high school to a middle school,” Jester said. “The trailers have been placed at Cross Keys for a renovation project. They are not there due to enrollment or capacity issues.”

 Jester said on his blog—factchecker.stanjester.com—that the conversion is estimated for completion in 2020 with a new Cross Keys High school is expected in 2021.

 Fellow board member Marshall Orson said addressing overcrowding in the Cross Keys High School cluster is one of DCSD’s highest priorities.

 “Given these circumstances, we will be building a new high school for the cluster—in addition to two new elementary schools and renovations of other schools, including the current Cross Keys High School which will become a middle school,” Orson said. “We are searching diligently for a suitable property in order to build this school as quickly and prudently as possible. The administration can address the logistics issues raised in [Morris’s comments]. In an urban setting space is frequently a challenge and other schools face similar issues. For example, due to space constraints, many athletes at Druid Hills High School travel to Druid Hills Middle School for practices and/or matches. We are committed to providing comparable opportunities for all students and continue to work to address circumstances where there are obstacles to doing so.”

 Morris said she respects Jester and Orson’s work for the district board of education, but said Cross Keys High School’s problem needs to be directly addressed.

 “Students need to know why there are trailers on school fields,” Morris said. “They already have five lunches and have gotten more trailers without explanation. No letter was sent home to parents and the parents I’ve talked to are worn out in expressing frustration. They think it falls on deaf ears.”

 District spokesmen said, “DCSD is placing great care to ensure students at Cross Keys High School have access to the appropriate facilities, while supporting extracurricular activities.”

 “Recently, students participating in fall sports have had access to half of the football practice field while 10 portable learning facilities were placed on site,” reads the response. “Other locations, such as the school baseball field, have been employed as alternatives. DCSD is working closely with the school to rearrange the portables on those fields within two weeks to create more space for students.”

 Portable classrooms, also known as modulars, trailers and modular classrooms have been a controversial topic in DCSD for the past several years because of cost and legality.

 DCSD spent $2.5 million on trailers in March 2016 and $3.1 million in February 2017.

 The 2017 purchase resulted in questions from DeKalb County commissioner Nancy Jester regarding the legality of portables without certificates of occupancy (COs). According to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, a CO confirms a building is in compliance with all applicable building codes. COs are typically issued before a building can be used.

 According to documents obtained by The Champion, the city of Brookhaven has issued 12 certificates of occupancy for portables at Cross Keys High School. 

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2 Comments

  1. Jeff Bragg says:

    I taught at Cross Keys until retirement in 2011. Our trailers on the tennis courts (for SPLOST renovation work) did NOT have 1. legal CoPs, 2. fire alarms, 3.PA systems (so we did not hear alerts about intruders, storms, fires, 4 phones for teachers, so we could not call for help, 5. radios except for one in the ROTC trailer, 6.and some trailers were never fully secured with all doors and windows lockable. DCSD and the Fire Marshall all ignored these issues for many months. Inexcusable.

  2. Jeff Bragg says:

    Correction: 1. above should state Certificates of Occupancy. Addition: We were promised drinking fountains and bathrooms in the trailers. DCSD installed underground water and sewer pipes with above ground pipes to connect to the trailers. Right before the trailers were installed DCSD cut off the above ground pipes and never provided water or sewer service. On rainy days students and staff had to walk through ankle-deep muddy water to get to the main building. Heat and AC unreliable. Security non-existant.

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