Overcrowding, maintenance big topics at district event

Attendees of a recent DeKalb County School District (DCSD) On the Scene with Dr. Green event were largely concerned with overcrowding and the use of classroom trailers.

According to one attendee, five DCSD high schools exceed student capacity. Tucker High School is over capacity by 22 students, while Clarkston and Cross Keys are close to 200 students over capacity. Lakeside High School is 315 students over capacity and Dunwoody is 536 students over capacity.

The event was held at Dunwoody High School. Parents, teachers, students and community members said they were concerned that there is not enough common space for students or hallway space for students at Dunwoody. Some also said that the school has no room for the band and that the chorus and drama classes share the auditorium. According to an audience member, classes for drama students have been held in the lobby in previous years.
Trailers used as portable classrooms are being used to remedy overcrowding.
[bctt tweet=”“No, I’m not OK with the trailers,” DCSD superintendent R. Stephen Green said.” username=”dekalbchampnews”] “That’s a short-term solution.”

Dunwoody is getting a 26-classroom school expansion in 2022, but attendees say more needs to be done sooner.

“You ask us to be patient for three years─that is a middle schooler’s entire experience at school,” an attendee said.

“When you talk about trailers being a temporary solution over the life of a [student’s time at the school] it is a permanent reality.”

According to a parent, his student has been taught in trailers for the student’s 14-year educational experience with the district.

Another attendee referenced Chamblee High School being expaned before Dunwoody, although Chamblee is a newer school.

District officials said the expansion of Chamblee High School will alleviate overcrowding at Cross Keys High School.

Safety hazards of overcrowding also were discussed, to which Green reassured attendees by saying, “Yes, it is safe.”

DCSD middle schools and elementary schools are also overcrowded. The new 900-seat Austin Elementary building was created to help reduce overcrowding. District officials are also considering using the current Austin Elementary building as a temporary option to further reduce overcrowding. The new location is set to open January 2020.

Doraville City Councilmember Stephe Koontz attended the event to speak residents she represents and residents who have children attending Cary Reynolds Elementary School.

According to Koontz, the school has 20 trailers on its property for overflow classroom space.

“In an elementary school that’s a really tough thing for the kids to deal with because you just can’t let them walk to the bathroom and sometimes the teachers can’t go with them,” Koontz said.

Koontz also brought up maintenance concerns including water leaks and possible mold.

Green said mold was ruled out by district maintenance workers. District officials said SPLOST revenues will fund a $5.6 million project to replace the roof and HVAC systems at Carey Reynolds in 2022.

District officials also said Dunwoody High School’s athletic fields would be repaired by the end of summer 2019 and the fields will be turfed over─making Dunwoody the first school in the district to have turfed fields.

Officials explained that overcrowding and maintenance problems are prioritized based on a criteria chart that is posted on the district’s website.

After a resident asked the district to be “proactive and not reactive” toward maintenance issues, Green said, “some of the facilities have been years and years falling behind if we’re going to be honest about it. So we have to catch up before you can be in a proactive phase.”

Daniel Drake, DCSD interim chief operations officer, said that facility maintenance staffing levels are “not adequate.” The district has 122 in-house staff members and 50 contracted staff workers for maintenance.

“We need double that, like we had before the recession,” Drake said.

District officials also reminded attendees that residents can see all open work requests on the district’s website, which is updated every month.

Green reiterated that every issue can’t be fixed at once with limited resources.

“I wouldn’t say that we don’t have the money, but we don’t have enough money,” Green said. “We’re certainly trying to optimize everything that we do have. There are competing interests across the county that strip the resources we have.

Then you have to prioritize, as in any household.”

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