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APS Redistricting: The Battle For Coan Middle School

'We are being pushed out of our own neighborhood school.'

At the Atlanta Board of Education meeting Monday night, a parade of parents from the Kirkwood and Edgewood neighborhoods had one question: Why close their middle school, , only to hand it over to the students of another community not even in the cluster?

The parents were reacting to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr.'s redistricting recommendations that call for the .

Davis' proposal, released late Sunday night, would reduce the number of excess seats by 7,200. APS has 47,000 students, but a 60,000-student capacity.

It follows a series of proposed rezonings submitted the district's outside consulting firm.

That schools would close as the district seeks to reduce costs and the number of empty seats — particularly those that are underutilized — is no surprise.

Indeed, parents from the Edgewood community came together to , from closure.

But the surprise, parents said, was to learn of Davis' recommendation that Coan, be closed and its 307 pupils be rezoned to King Middle in Grant Park, some four miles away.

Coan — the middle school that serves the Edgewood, Kirkwood, East Lake and East Atlanta neighborhoods — would be converted to a sixth-grade academy.

As such, it would serve to relieve overcrowding at Inman Middle School in Virginia-Highland.

Though Coan is only 34.3 percent full, closure wasn't an option in either or of demographers' recommendations.

That their kids be displaced and be made to attend a school three neighborhoods away so the children of another community could benefit was nothing less than offensive, parents said.

"Now, we are being pushed out of our own neighborhood school," Kirkwood resident and realtor Sally Alcock told Atlanta Board of Education members at Monday's meeting.

"Do not take our resources from our community and give it to another community so that community can stay status quo."

Board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, whose District 3 includes Coan and its feeder neighborhoods, told East Atlanta Patch she is not opposed to a sixth grade academy concept.

But she said she would not support the proposal if it means the exclusion of the children who are zoned to Coan's for those outside its feeder neighborhoods.

"I'm appalled," Harsch-Kinnane said of the idea in its current form. "I don't think we can use it without including the communities" Coan currently serves.

"I'm for a sixth-grade academy, but as I've said publicly, there has to be another way."

Bevin Carpenter Sr., community partnerships manager of , which aims to reduce school drop-outs and is actively working in Coan, said Coan's parents never had a chance to advocate for their school.

Coan was never on the closures lists in any of the previous proposals, he told board members.

"It makes no sense for Virginia-Highland students to be bussed to Edgewood," Carpenter said, reading from a letter Coan parents sent to the BOE.

Maggie Stewart, another Kirkwood parent, said the merging of King and Coan's students further concentrates kids of lower socioeconomic status together.

What's more, Kirkwood would end up going to Jackson High School, a lower-performing school in Grant Park, rather than Grady High School in Midtown, one of the better-performing secondary institutions within APS.

"Giving away our middle school, taking away our high school — we're giving more than everybody. It seems like the wealthier and louder communities are getting exactly what they want," she said.

"Don't try to bus our children off and ignore them and try to sweep them under the carpet."

Parents from other East Atlanta Patch neighborhoods, namely Old Fourth Ward, were happy the superintendent’s proposals included one of their goals, which was to be zoned for Inman Middle School.

Representatives of another neighborhood, Summerhill, expressed their displeasure that their children, currently zoned to attend the underperforming Cook Elementary in Capitol Gateway, would be rezoned to D.H. Stanton in Peoplestown.

Cook closes under Davis' proposal, with its kids being divided among several schools. Summerhill parents, as did those in nearby Cabbagetown, wanted to be rezoned to Parkside Elementary in Grant Park.

Cabbagetown, which also is currently zoned to Cook, and preferred Parkside, too, would be redistricted to Whitefoord Elementary School in Edgewood.

Monday's meeting will be followed by a around the district.

The Atlanta Board of Education is expected to vote on a final plan in April; the changes would become effective by the start of the 2012-13 academic year.

TooBusytohate March 13, 2012 at 05:11 PM
LOL - the survey question reads as if it were a "push poll". Anyone with even a modicum of understanding realizes Coan is not beig closed in order to create a 6th grade academy for the Grady area. As things are currently drawn, there are not enough students to keep King and Coan both open. One had to close, and APS chose Coan. APS also needs more middle school space to feed into Inman, and looked at the available options and thought Coan would be a good fit. I think virtually no-one thinks Coan should used for a Grady 6th grade academy. The questions should just be simply "Should Coan be closed?" I think the Coan as a K-8 is a great idea, and feel even more stongly about keeping Coan open after reading the response from Emory re: Coan. I had no idea how involved they were in the area schools and think APS should do everything in their power to nurture and grow that relationship.
MAO March 15, 2012 at 02:10 AM
How is moving Mary Lin to Coan going to solve the problems at Coan? It is a FAILING school. Until two months ago when Georgia was exempted by the Federal Government from meeting the very easily obtainable No Child Left Behind Standards, every parent zoned for Coan was legally allowed to transfer their child elsewhere. Do you really think that the Mary Lin kids are so great that they will solve this? Do you also believe that dilution is the solution to pollution?
Nick March 15, 2012 at 03:28 PM
^5 I am trying to make more of an effort to take race out of the discussion... I like the school building, I like the neighborhood, I don't like to see school buildings closed, and I would like to see the building reach full capacity and become a desirable school for the neighborhood. The discussion begs the question of why more local children are not attending that school?
Nick March 15, 2012 at 03:33 PM
If Inman is overcrowded by, let's say, 80 students, could 80 children (their parent(s)) be allowed to choose to go to Coan? Kinda like M-to-M, except...wait, exactly like M-to-M!
Kirkwood Parent March 15, 2012 at 04:23 PM
@Nick, I hope we can all make that same effort. It's just not productive to talk about race, which really has nothing to do with performance. Contrary to what most people believe, the best performing high school in Atlanta is Carver, not Grady. From what I understand, Carver is about 98% black. You raise what really is the most important question on the thread-why don't more local children attend Coan? I think that's just a matter of past performance and reputation, not race. We all wish its performance and reputation could be improved, but we're not willing to send our own kids there until we see a little progress. Many of us think that if we just get the Candler Park/Inman Park kids zoned to Coan we will magically and instantly see that progress. Maybe that's true, but I don't think it's fair to ask those neighborhoods to do something we've been unwilling to do ourselves. That's why I would like to see a K-8 solution for our community. But I think there are other options that could work as well. It sounds like there are lots of people in Grant/Ormewood Park, Cabbagetown and East Atlanta who have young kids and are excited about sending them to Coan and doing everything they can to make the school better. If we have to hitch our wagon to somebody, I'd rather go with the people who want to be at Coan than the ones who are doing everything they can to avoid it.

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