Monday, April 28, 2008
Parents start petition over Dunwoody 4th-5th Grade Academy Concerns
Dunwoody elementary school parents from Austin, Vanderlyn, Chesnut and Kingsley are ready to start passing a petition based on the concerns they have over the proposed Dunwoody Academy listed below. These concerned parents also hope to meet with the Hightower community in order to include them into the discussions. While they truly appreciate the efforts of the school system, the concerned parents believe this Academy compromise is not the best solution for the Dunwoody cluster and they want them to go back to the drawing board.
If you are a Dunwoody homeowner or a parent of an elementary school child be prepared to sign this petition. If you are a member of the school board or an administrator of the school system, please be prepared to address these concerns.
• The overcrowding problem in our cluster needs to be treated as a cluster-wide problem and therefore needs a cluster-wide solution. It seems unreasonable that the proposed “Academy” leaves two of our schools still over capacity...Austin and Vanderlyn at 111% capacity. If this issue were seen as a cluster-wide problem, then an under populated school would not be located less than 2 miles from an overcrowded school, while simultaneously spending several million tax dollars to construct a new school only one mile away. The ONLY equitable solution is to redraw the attendance lines so that every school in our cluster is sufficiently utilized, and all of our students have the same opportunities for a quality education.
• Will Kingsley, Hightower, and the Academy be “receiving schools” because they are under capacity? If so, then while some of our cluster schools are over crowded, other cluster schools will receive students? How does this solve the over crowding problem in our cluster?
• If the Academy concept is the better choice academically, then why aren’t the Kingsley and Hightower students included! Why isn’t this new standard for all of DeKalb County? Parents who are praising the benefits of the new academy – full-fledged music programs, state-of-the art science labs, foreign language instruction for all, etc. – should see the unfairness of offering these benefits to only a portion of our students?
• This additional layer of schooling...now 4 schools...will add to difficult task of coordinating school events like Open Houses, PTA meeting, etc. Not to mention asking too much of our community with fundraising, Partners in Education, and donations!!!
• How many homerooms will there at the Academy...15+ classes??? The teachers and students work very hard to form a class relationship. This is challenging enough with a class of 80, thus it will be impossible with a class of well over 300. This Academy changes the whole dynamics and identity of their grade. It is forcing them into a middle school type setting as 4th and 5th graders. Academically and socially that is a lot to "compete" with at this age. It is essential that we remember that these students are still children. There is absolutely no need to rush them growing up -- society does enough of that already. If we simply replicate a middle school model, we are doing a huge disservice to the children.
• Will testing be a problem? Since we seem to be teaching to the test these days...an effort to coordinate between Austin, Vanderlyn and Chesnut will be needed...to make sure nothing is missed when they switch to another school for 4-5 grade?
• Will there really be enough points to have chorus, band and orchestra teachers? Will the Austin students continue German? What about Spanish for Vanderlyn and Chesnut students? Will the 4th-5th Austin/Vanderlyn/Chesnut teachers become the teachers at the new school...or is that only a possibility?
• Fourth and Fifth grade students will not be the “leaders” in their school, because they will be the only students in their school. Leadership and being a role model is so important. With all the traditions...safety patrol, 5th grade celebration, fifth grade trip, space camp, student government, announcements in the morning, mentor to beginning readers...all add to the concrete experience of growing up and "leading". This is equally as important to the younger students of the school; they look up to these older students as role models!
• Patrols are actually very helpful both to students, parents and teachers. Patrols open car doors and school doors; the large doors are too heavy for younger smaller students. Plus, the patrols take their monitoring very seriously...escorting younger children to the trailers in the mornings, helping to keep the students quiet and safe. If we take the patrols away, the teachers will have less time to prepare for class, etc. The patrols work both morning and afternoon shifts. These approximately 30 patrols will need to be replaced by teachers and staff, because certainly this role can’t be performed by 3rd graders.
• At PCMS, we have a very difficult time filling PTA (PTCC) positions with just 3 short years...it’s going to be almost impossible to do this in just 2 years (two year terms especially). We also think that it will weaken the elementary level PTA. Typically, committee heads are filled with parents of older students. The PTAs from the elementary schools will need to work together and be willing to allocate funds to “start up” the new school’s PTA, plus slate officers while still in elementary school for the fall. Now we will be asking parents to divide their time again, remember these parents are volunteers...if the process gets too difficult...they will not be supportive and simply will not volunteer!
• Fourth and fifth grade students will not be attending their “neighborhood school”. These students really enjoy walking and riding their bikes to and from school because they are finally “old enough”. This independence will be lost riding the bus.
• Gas prices are going up...yet we are not staying in our neighborhoods for school to conserve gas! This also impacts our air quality! Isn’t this contrary to Dekalb becoming a Green School System?
• What about those children that don’t ride the bus to their elementary school? How will parents walk one child to the elementary school, and get the other child ready for the “Academy”?
• A 4-tier bus system won’t be necessary...yet will more buses be purchased??? 90% of the students attending Austin are walkers, they are not on a bus, so additional buses will be necessary to transport these students. Won’t it cost the county more to provide additional buses?
• Is it really realistic to expect students to arrive at school 45 minutes early...assuming that the K-3 students are dropped off first, then 4th-5th are dropped off (or visa versa)? Sitting in the cafeteria waiting for school to start is not an acceptable solution.
• Many families choose to drive (rather than use the bus) in the morning, because they don’t want their students sitting in the cafeteria unnecessarily. Won’t it waste the county money to spend more in gas for those buses to travel farther to pick up children in buses that will be less than full?
• This will force even MORE cars onto the road, further aggravating the traffic on Roberts Drive with the morning commuters, plus the Austin, Davis Academy, and Dunwoody Springs parents. The traffic in the Womack – Vermack area will be a nightmare with Georgia Perimeter, DHS, Vanderlyn...and now parents carpooling from the Chesnut and Austin school districts.
• Will they need to make any modifications to the new school design??? Certain areas were designed for specific ages. This should be an easy fix...but it’s still a change and all change orders cost money and time. Thus, will the new school really be ready by 2009?