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APS Board Member Sends Letter to Community

Letter from district three board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane

The following letter was sent to school board district three stakeholders this week after the final Atlanta Public Schools redistricting decision.

Dear District 3 Stakeholders:

This week the Atlanta Board of Education gave approval to a redistricting plan that was the end result of a two-year demographic study conducted by APS. The superintendent's final recommendation put in place a system-wide, stable cluster model and was a reflection of the administration's instructional, facility, and financial concerns; feedback from the communities; and input from the board members. The board unanimously approved the proposal with a modification which leaves open three elementary schools that had been slated for closure.

The plan does involve some changes for schools in District 3. East Lake Elementary School will close at the end of the 2011-12 school year and the students of East Lake will be zoned to Toomer Elementary School. Toomer, Whitefoord, and Burgess-Peterson Elementary Schools will continue to be zoned to Coan Middle School; all students at Coan will now be zoned to Maynard Jackson High School. Students residing in Kirkwood and East Lake who currently attend Grady High School will be allowed to graduate from Grady unless they choose to attend Maynard Jackson.  An extensive renovation is going to begin at Maynard Jackson at the end of this school year. During the renovation, Maynard Jackson will be relocated to the Coan facility. Coan will relocate to the East Lake facility during the Jackson renovation.  When the Jackson renovation is complete, the Coan facility will revert back to Coan Middle School with a new instructional program in place. An addition will be built at Mary Lin Elementary School to replace the trailers that are currently there and to meet growing enrollment. It is very likely that an addition will be built at Springdale Park to accommodate growth - some details are still under consideration. Mary Lin, Springdale Park, Morningside, and Centennial Place students will all continue to be zoned to Inman Middle School and will now be joined at Inman by the students from Hope-Hill Elementary School. Additional portables will be placed on the Inman campus to meet the middle school capacity needs for the short term; a long term solution is being worked on, but has not yet been identified. All students at Inman will be zoned to Grady High School. For the next two years, until the current magnet and administrative transfer students transition out and the new, smaller feeder zone is fully transitioned in, Grady will continue to have an over capacity enrollment. The system will work with the administrators at Grady to provide the support that the school will need to best accommodate all students.

There are some very important next steps that must be taken to ensure that the planned changes occur as successfully and seamlessly as possible, and to fill in gaps in the long range plan. It is critical that the concerns of the students, parents, and faculty of East Lake and Toomer are heard and addressed to ensure that the merger is a positive experience for all. There must be adequate preparation for the off-site year for Coan, and there must be extensive planning and communication during this time to create the best framework for the instructional transformation at Coan.  Furthermore, the plan, as approved, does not provide a long-term solution for overcrowding at Inman.  This lack of a specific directive allows the Inman community an opportunity to help craft a consensus plan.  In order to address the need for further community input on all these issues, I will be forming task forces in the affected communities.  I plan to have representatives identified and begin meeting within the next few weeks.

I know that this has been a long, difficult, and at times very painful process. I regret the toll that it has taken on our school communities, but I am proud of the way that so many have risen to voice their concerns, share their expertise and insights, advocate for their schools and for one another, and to show their support and commitment to public education in the city of Atlanta. I do believe that the system will be stronger as a result of what we have learned during this process. Thank you for the tremendous input that you have given me - it has been immensely valuable and meaningful to me. I fully trust that over the next year and a half you will continue to keep me as informed as I need to be in order to best advocate for all of our schools.

Finally, I would also like to thank the teachers, principals, and support staff at our schools for their unwavering commitment to our students. Despite the recent uncertainty and turmoil within APS, they have continued to stay focused on educating our children with the utmost of care.

Sincerely,

Cecily Harsch-Kinnane
ABOE Member - District 3
chkinnane@atlanta.k12.ga.us

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