Thursday, February 26, 2009

DeKalb Public School enrollment will it be up or down and how will it affect Dunwoody? What about Bus service?

Will DeKalb's School Enrollment be going up?

Every DeKalb County Public School in Dunwoody has portable classroom trailers and when the new fourth & fifth grade school opens next year on Womack, many of those trailers will remain in place. I am seeing conflicting stories in the news regarding school funding, school closures and whether enrollment will be going up or down. The DeKalb County School Board is thinking about closing more schools and increasing the busing distance to reduce costs. Now because of economic hardship it appears that many families who have sent their children off to private school in the past are deciding to return to the local public schools.

Today I read on the DeKalb County School Watch blog that the newly built Arabia Mountain High School which was scheduled to be a neighborhood school as well as being able to accept transfers from other nearby "failing" schools has been modified to be Magnet or "Choice" school which wouldn't have to accept transfers from other schools. This change directly affects Dunwoody High School since it will still be a "receiving" school from students all over the county. If this is true, it sounds like a bait and switch to me in order to prepare a justification of the next SPLOST tax for Education.

Finally a school issue which will be affecting all of Dunwoody (even if you do not have children in school) is the yet to be finalized busing plan for the new school. With elementary school children from all over Dunwoody going to this school and with a mix of K though 3 as well as the 4 & 5's on the same pick up route; it will be a logistical nightmare to work a feasible and efficient schedule for all involved.

On top of that, Dr. Crawford Lewis has proposed that the walk zone be increased from 1 mile to 1.5 miles - as student safety and traffic conditions allow. I had my GIS software draw a 1.5 mile circle around the new school which is as the crow flies and then I mapped the walking distance from the school to my home, which measured 1.6 miles. Even if my fourth grader is offered a bus to the new school, we will have to decide if the logistical circumstances make sense for us to accept the ride.

The prospect of very early bus pickups for those who will still be offered the bus and the 1.5 mile walking distance without buses being offered, means that there will probably be a lot of cars making round trip visits to Womack Road come early August.

The job of putting together the transportation plan for the new school to best serve the needs of the students will be very difficult and I hope that the school system explores every option to find what is best for the students. This is what the new school website says regarding school start times and transportation logistics.

What time will school start and end?
  • This is still under review. The current plan on the table has students delivered to the Academy starting at 7:00 am. Once the Academy students are dropped off, the bus will continue its route to the next elementary school. Students will be picked up from the Academy at 2:00 in the afternoon. Academy will dismiss at 2:00 pm. Buses will leave the Academy and go to Austin, Vanderlyn, and Chestnut Elementary schools before delivering to the neighborhoods. This is subject to change if the school release time is modified. This will create an earlier time for pick up in the morning, but the afternoon pickup and drop off time will be the same and the students will arrive home at the same time as their siblings.
How will the buses run, in relation to the current busing schedule?
  • We are an elementary school, and therefore, we will work around the established elementary start and end times with some flexibility. This is a transportation issue that the DeKalb County School System is looking into to determine the best possible time.
Whether or not you have children in the DeKalb County School System, these school items affect our tax bill, our home values and our overall quality of life and I thought they should be brought to your attention. I know that I will be watching closely.


pscexb said...

John, part of your question was answered on DeKalbSchoolWatch. Regarding the walk zone, it should be noted that DCSS is merely increasing it to the walk zone approved by the state for bus service. This was a part of the overall transportation efficiencies recommendations.

While the projections for next school year are lower than this, I'm not sure if the state of the economy was factored into the algorithm. It is 'possible' we could see students from private schools return to DCSS. Ask Cerebration about the Title 1 spreadsheet that includes all school age children for a particular attendance zone. It could provide the ability to do 'what if' analysis based on some of those numbers.

DunwoodyParent said...

All the questions/concerns over the 4th & 5th grade school on Womack have been addressed before - with responses from the school board (including Dunwoody/Vanderlyn representative Jim Redovian)being vague at best.

Mainly due to a group of parents from Vanderlyn refusing to accept redistricting (they'd prefer to keep their kids in a trailer until they go off to private school rather than 'mix' with others) the new school that no one seems to want to attend has caused (and will further cause once opened)problems for the community.

themommy said...

Dunwoody Parent,

Many Austin parents have made it clear for years that they wanted the apartments redistricted from their school. Send them to Montgomery was a common cry about 4 or so years ago. This is a Dunwoody issue not a Vanderlyn one.

That said, right now, the buses deliver students to the elementary schools by 7:10 AM. Many parents struggle with the issue of riding the bus (which is so early) or taking their child sometimes more than 30 minutes later.

It is my understanding that the college has a ton of traffic at 2 PM and everything is being reevaluated as we speak.

Also, keep in mind, that this is a flawed location for a school and this was forced upon us by a former board member who was worried that the old Chamblee Middle site was to close to apartments. While the N. Shallowford area is congested, it is a piece of cake compared to Womack.

Also, if we had simply remodeled the old school and redistricted children throughout the cluster, we could have ended up with 6 reasonably sized elementary schools instead of one built for 900 students.

DunwoodyParent said...

Many Austin parents do want redistricting. When you redistrict the people residing furthest from the school are zoned into a new school. Same would go for Vanderlyn. Problem was that those living furthest from their current school (or closer to the new school) wanted nothing to do with redistricting. Jim R refused to be open-minded on the issue. Blame could be placed on previous board members, but I place the 4/5 issue on Jim's lap. It was he who told the board this was the best for the community. I spoke to board members and they said they have to go with what the local member (Jim R) says. Creating a 4/5 was not in the best interest of Dunwoody but was in the best interest (so they think) of those that were being redistricted to the new school.Those people were in the minority but that did not matter.

Momfirst said...

I don't have a dog in this fight as my kids are older. However, our house is in the "new" school redistrict and I don't believe that the new district was fairly drawn. I also don't think that the new academy was well thought out. Everyone outside of our re-district area thinks the new district was just fine... I find it hard to believe that in good conscience all the "others" really would have been fine also if their house was to be redistricted to the new school. It was clearly apartment heavy. It's time to get on with's old news.

DunwoodyParent said...
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Dunwoody Mom said...

Momfirst, there is no new school
redistricting. Quite simply, the 4the 4th and 5th grades from Vanderlyn, Austin and Chesnut will now comprise the population of the new 4/5 Academy. While, my children are also older, I would be beyond ecstatic for my children to attend a brand new, modern, clean school.

Perhaps if the some of parents of Dunwoody had acted in a more civil, mature manner in all of this, then maybe DCSS would have more open to suggestions. I know if someone if insulting me and calling me names (as what was done to Dr. Lewis), I would shut down and ignore you all as well.

Momfirst said...

I understand the new academy, I'm saying that the original redistricting would have affected my neighborhood and I think some Dunwoody families that were not affected were quick to latch on to the redistricting plan presented. My point is that if they had been in my neighborhood they may not have been so gung ho. Until you've walked a mile in my shoes theory... I agree about a beautiful new school, however, it was inequitably filled with apartments. Was there a better plan than the academy, absolutely... was there a rush to fix, absolutely. A little time and patience along with a best for everyone involved mentality would have provided a better solution. However, again - my other point (obviously it wasn't well stated) was that it's time to move on and make the best of what's to come. Maybe before our time is up Dunwoody City will have control of our childrens' education - wouldn't that be the best of all worlds!

Dunwoody Mom said...

What is the problem with a school being filled with apartment people?

Momfirst said...

I'm going to generalize here but the typical apartment dweller is not as committed to the community and school as the homeowner is. They also tend to be a more transient population which is not generally good for a neighborhood school. Of course, there are plenty of very committed parents who happen to live in apartments, however, having the bulk of local apartments in one school is not as much of a community school IMO.

Ellen Fix said...

When you think about it, we're all sort of transient. Your child goes to an elementary school for just a few years, and then on to middle school or now the new Academy. Then, on to high school and then out the door. As for "commitment": One thoroughly committed and inspired teacher in the classroom can have far more impact on your child's education than any number of "committed" parents -- no matter how many cookies they bring for the bake sale.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Wow, Momfirst, just wow. What a narrow-minded, absolutely insulting view. I am embarassed for you.

DunwoodyParent said...

she speaks for many moms of Vanderlyn. It's fine for apartment kids to go to Austin, Chesnut, anywhere but her school. They had the help of Jim R to keep the school sacred in their own minds.

Now they have to send their kids to private school in 4th grade instead of waiting until 6th grade.

Dr Lewis and Cunningham and Bowen fell for it, little did they know it but its people like Mom wanting to keep Vandy kids segregated from the unwashed apartment kids

Cerebration said...

I am not embarrassed for Momfirst at all. It's actually a fact that apartment dwellers are much more transient and less involved in the schools - not some kind of stereotype she holds dear. Very few even will join the PTA - they usually don't have time. That's very easy for communities to absorb, as long as the scale doesn't tip. That's why I also disagreed with districting all of the apartments to one school. Schools need year over year stability - and Dunwoody in general is very lucky to offer that stability - why not share it and spread the students from apartments around in order to provide a higher level of support?

Elementary school is the foundation for the rest of a child's education - and in many cases - it really does take a village to help those whose parents may be struggling just to make ends meet. I know I personally have enjoyed helping many students who don't have the support or tools at home that most of the students in my community have. Ohio has implemented a program called "Ohio Reads" where parents can complete a program to help teach early readers in their schools and schools nearby. Any psychologist will tell you about the enormous power of "modeling" - behavior, study habits, reading skills, on and on... The elementary experience is critical for setting up success in middle and high school. Find the best way to serve these kids - I personally think the best way may be to divide the different apartment complexes among all of the elementary schools in the area - or better yet - let them choose a school for their child.

Basically, my point is - transient students do much better in an environment where the majority of students, teachers and parents are there for the long haul. There are many more resources - and volunteers serving as mentors - willing to support teachers - to build vital safety nets for children who may not have the same level of support at home as others.

Of course -- It may actually all become a moot point if some of the legislation currently being debated at the State Capitol passes - like SB 90 - vouchers for all - or HB 251 which allows students to transfer to any school in the county if there is a seat available. We may be venturing into a whole new world with very few boundaries whatsoever. I think that will be a good thing.

Momfirst said...

Sorry, should have also addressed Dunwoody Parent. Vanderlyn has plenty of apartment kids - that's not the issue...I'm not going to go further - obviously you have an axe to grind. I'm sorry you're so angry at the Vanderlyn parents. I wish only the best for all our kids.

Momfirst said...

My last comment (before the sorry) didn't make it.
Thank you Cerebration - that was my point. It takes a stable environment of all kinds of kids to make a school work and the re-districting plan was not very well balanced IMO. I am not a private school Mom - I have a Dunwoody kids and a P'tree kid and these are both diverse populations but they work fairly well because the base is strong...that was my point. Have a nice night.

DunwoodyParent said...

Of course Vanderlyn has kids from apartments (Jefferson at Perimeter).

Take a look here:

As of Jan 2009 (not including those under construction)

Vanderlyn has one apartment complex
Austin has eleven
Chesnut has 10

Dunwoody Mom said...

Cere, as the parent of children that attended an elementary school that has a population of "apartment people" as part of its student body, I will absolutely DISAGREE with your and Momfirst's assertion. I knew and still know plenty of parents/students who live in apartments here in Dunwoody and have for years - and are very active in their children's schools and school activities.

I'm just astonished at this blantant disregard and prejudice against "apartment people". Wow.

If this is the type of emails and phone calls that our BOE receiving during all of conversation surrounding the new Dunwoody ES, it's no wonder they turned a deaf ear. Who would want to listen to such utter garbage?

Cerebration said...

There are always exceptions, Dunwoody Mom. However, you may want to go to the apartment complexes in the area and just poll them - ask them what their turnover is. Ask the principals at the schools what the actual turnover is regarding students from apartments. Very few people stay in the same apartment for too many years in a row. And - I'm not saying these parents don't deeply care about their children's education - they do - sometimes even more than most.

In the government reports about the best Title 1 schools one of the key issues schools work very hard to overcome is transiency. You may wish to research the topic and take a look at the facts. Anecdotal stories from experience are one thing - but research is another.

I think it's far more 'prejudiced' to put all of the apartment complexes into one school. And that was my point - that they should be evenly distributed. I'm not sure what your disagreement is with that - are you saying that a school totally comprised of transient apartment dwellers will be just as stable and successful as a school comprised of homeowners with a long history of community? Are you saying the two groups should stay separate?

But then again, hopefully, very soon it won't be an issue whatsoever - as we are about to pass some laws that will forever end the "districting" debate.

Cerebration said...

Of course, there is the theory that Dr. Lewis and the school system may want to put all of the apartment dwellers into one school - that way they can claim lower incomes, more free and reduced lunches and qualify to become a Title 1 school...

DunwoodyParent said...

Cerebration & MomFirst,

Do you think Vanderlyn district should be re-mapped to include more kids from apartements?

Cerebration said...

I don't know exactly what the mapping looks like right now. I have long been under the impression that the new elementary school was supposed to take in all of the apartment dwellers along with some of Vanderlyn. IMO, that is out of balance. Sadly, rather than evenly distribute the apartments among ALL of the elementary schools (which may involve moving several attendance lines) they have somehow now concocted a weird 4th/5th grade academy plan. So it may be a done deal and this discussion is without reason. But I do think that balancing out the apartments among all of the schools would be beneficial to everyone.

Elementary school is so critical. We need to do the best we can to create a level playing field before middle school.

Staceka said...

I'm an Austin parent and my problem with the 4/5 academy comes down to this...there will still be trailers and overcrowding at my son's school. Why build a new school that doesn't solve the problem?

It seems like the technology should exist to equitably distribute students across all Dunwoody cluster schools and maintain a balance with multi-family housing.

But Jim R. was against redistricting and therefore there will still be classrooms in trailers at Austin.

Dunwoody Mom said...
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Dunwoody Mom said...

Even with re-drawing attendance lines and a new ES, both Austin and Vanderlyn would still have trailers.

There is nothing Dr. Lewis could have done to make both Austin and Vanderlyn parents happy.

Something which puzzles me is why parents who have a problem with overcrowding schools would chose move into a neighborhood with overcrowded schools. Austin and Vanderlyn have been overcrowded for years - this is nothing new.

Cerebration said...

In case you're interested in research - here's an excerpt from a breakout session focusing on ways to deal with the issue of transiency at the National Center for Educational Statistics - conference in Washington state just last month. I'd love to view the world through Dunwoody Mom's rosy glasses - but the truth is that there are many families who struggle - even in Dunwoody. Even in single-family homes. But apartments provide - sometimes even encourage - transiency. They offer too many "free month's rent" enticements which doesn't attract people who are looking for a long-term home, usually.

With the current economic downturn, schools, districts, states and higher education entities are faced with higher rates of student mobility among families that are in financial crisis. In a recent news article, this was highlighted with a story of 50 students in one week who had become homeless because of foreclosures. Each family was struggling to keep the students in school, andstudent mobility was causing issues for the educational institutions as the students were now considered part of the transient mobile population andappeared on rolls of more than one school. The Schools Interoperability Framework Association is working to provide a comprehensive collection of data elements that comprise a Student RecordExchange (SRE) to support appropriate and rapid placement to supportcontinued student learning.

ps - Dunwoody mom - are you saying that the solution to over crowded schools is for parents to just not move there? Try taking that case to SW DeKalb - their schools are burgeoning and the new houses continue to go up.

Cerebration said...

One other solution I quite like is allowing students to finish school at their original school even if they move elsewhere in the district. (They have to provide the transportation.) The new homeless law requires this for kids labeled homeless - who aren't always without a home - it's interesting. They can just be more or less unsupervised or without true stability at home. It's a really good law. We need our schools to do what they can to provide stability.

Cerebration said...

Interesting -

MLKing only has 5 apartment complexes.

Miller Grove has 12.

Redan has 2.

However, Cross Keys has nearly 80.

themommy said...

Dunwoody Parent,

Using your logic about redistricting is totally out of whack. The people furthest from the school? Well, some of Austin is already as close to Vanderlyn as it is to Austin. Some of Chesnut is closer to Vanderlyn and some of Kingsley is closer to Vanderlyn.


I hate to beat a dead horse.. but had the system used Shallowford (the old Chamblee Middle) and renovated it there was an historical attendance zone already for that school. It would have had to be tweaked, but it least it would have been a start. Plus it was more than one mile from every Dunwoody elementary school. Had they torn it down and built a larger school the historical lines could have made the basis of the new zone. BUT, so many people fought that location because of its proximity to apartment complexes, led by their former board member.

The new location is less than a mile (as the crow flies) from Chesnut and Vanderlyn and less than a mile from the edges of Kingsley and Austin's attendance zone.

Flawed location, flawed results.

themommy said...

Finally, the real challenge in Dunwoody (and Buckhead) is that home values have become way to tied to elementary schools. Almost no where else in Metro Atlanta do you buy a home based on elementary school, rather you do so on high school. (Walton, Brookwood, N. Gwinnett, Pope, Northview, Chattochee, etc)

So people who have paid 50K more for a house in Austin or Vanderlyn then they would have say in Woodland or Chesnut are worried. If we were living on Dunwoody's achievements we would all be better off. As a community, our emphasis (and interest) needs to change from k-5 to 9-12. See that the SAT scores soar at DHS and then it won't matter which school zone your house is in.

DunwoodyParent said...
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DunwoodyParent said...


a good high school always has good feeder schools (Walton is a prime example of this), but good elem schools do not always lead to a good high school (Dunwoody).

The key to a good high school is to account for all the feeder schools, not just one or two. All the elem schools feeding into Walton are top-notch. Can you say the same for Dunwoody?

Bottom line is if you want your kid in a top middle school and high school you can't live in Dunwoody unless you go private.

I think many Dunwoody parents are happy with their elem school but are leary of the middle and high school. I know their are success stories every day in those two schools, but until the overcrowding and transfers stop, the middle school and high school will remain 2nd or 3rd tier compared to other metro schools.

I agree the location of the new school stinks, but a 4/5 stinks even more. Once the 4/5 fails AYP in year 1 or 2 you'll see a call to change back to the K-5 format.

DunwoodyParent said...

nothing gets John's blog 'popping' more than a discussion on our schools!

Our only hope is for Milton to become a county and then convince Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta, etc. to let us be a part of it. We'd be part of Milton County School District and things would change. Hopefully Weber and Millar are working on this.

Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell said...

Dunwoody Parent, Fran Millar mentioned Milton and possible Dunwoody inclusion in a phone conversation I had with him prior to the referendum. I concluded he was 'working on it' but being a phone conversation I have no proof and cannot speak for him. I will suggest that he can be accessible, so ask him.

This has been an interesting thread of comments. Cerebration's egalitarian views speak to someone with close ties to the school system which clashes with the views of otherwise self-interested parents. That tension is ever present, but so rarely examined for what it truly means.

And it has been over 30 years since our house was bought, so I'm really not in tune with local real estate, but are there really people in Dunwoody who paid $40K or $50K premiums for the schools? Does anyone know of a source of hard data on this?

bFAcnq5zteZMdkHh5iAsYsZG said...

I recently moved into Dunwoody for the express purpose of sending my 4 yr old to Vanderlyn, and houses in the area are definately $50K more than Chestnut.

Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell said...

I had actually ciphered on that a bit. My back of the envelope suggests the $50K adds $300/mo to the P+I, about $110K over the life of the loan--of course this presumes one stays put for the life of the loan ;^). Redistributed over a 13 year education this is over $8K/yr. If the schools really are better then this is a great deal for a family with a few kids, say 3+, who move when the kids graduate. Perhaps this explains why East Cobb is so popular as well. These are truly fascinating economic and temporal microclimates.