A week or so ago I exchanged emails with DeKalb School Board Member Marshall Orson. I had written to Mr. Orson to get some specifics on the school situation that would develop if the proposed annexation of the Druid Hills / Emory area into Atlanta were to occur assuming LaVista Park joined LaVista Hills or Brookhaven or was somehow able to stay unincorporated. If this scenario played out, our current elementary and high schools, Briar Vista and Druid Hills, respectively would no longer be available to LaVista Park children. I wanted to know, as specifically as possible, to what schools LaVista Park would then be zoned.
I have also reached out to a member of the Atlanta Public Schools to get some ideas of what annexation into Atlanta might mean for our school situation….assuming, of course, we went in with the Druid Hills / Woodland Hills / Emory area. I will post his reply when available. But, for now, to follow is my recent email exchange with Marshall Orson:
Thank you for your note. My apology for my delay in responding—I was having trouble accessing my school district email. I have copied my personal email address above so you can also reach me through that account.
With regard to your questions, the proposed area for annexation (which, by the way, does currently include your neighborhood), would involve Briar Vista Elementary, Fernbank Elementary and Druid Hills High School. Druid Hills Middle School is not included in the current annexation proposal though I hear rumblings there is interest in annexation by some in the Laurel Ridge neighborhoods. It is, of course, a very fluid situation. And, to this end, Mayor Reed announced yesterday that he supports annexation by these neighborhoods (i.e. the Briar Vista and Fernbank
neighborhoods) and has committed to work towards securing Legislative approval to allow a referendum.
With regard to schools witching districts, there appears to be a line of Supreme Court cases and affirming Georgia Attorney general opinions that the population and the schools that are physically within an area annexed, where the annexing city has a school system, switch to the new school system free and clear. While the DeKalb School District might challenge such a change I am currently hard pressed to see the basis of such a challenge and there are other political forces that, in my opinion, would support that outcome.
So, of course, that leaves the question of where children who reside outside an annexed area might attend. And, that is a great unknown. I find it ironic that the denial of the charter cluster has accelerated this issue and I think that its approval could very well have avoided much of this situation. However, I think decisions likely will be governed by a few basic principles—proximity, capacity and availability. The elementary schools closet to you are Woodward, Sagamore Hills and Laurel Ridge. None is really close but the District would need to figure out which of those facilities would make the most sense. It is possible that the school community could be further split (as it would be with regard to Woodland Hills).
With regard to middle and high school, Druid Hills Middle School would remain part of DeKalb so it likely would continue as a middle school. It is possible that DHMS could be reconfigured to carry additional grades since it once was a high school but DeKalb has not routinely been innovative (whether with regard to school configurations or otherwise). With regard to high school, if DHMS was not reconfigured, I think possible high schools for your neighborhood could be either Cross Keys or a reopened Avondale. Lakeside is very unlikely given that its population already exceeds its capacity.
I am always available to sit down and talk with people and am happy to do so if you think that would be of value. In the interim, I hope the foregoing helps to provide at least a little clarity in a very unclear situation.
My name is Steve Richards and I am president of the LaVista Park Civic Association. I think you know this, but….LaVista Park is a neighborhood of 630 homes bordered by Briarcliff, LaVista, Sheridan, and the City of Atlanta (just east of Cheshire Bridge Road). I have heard you speak on at least two occasions over the last year and a half, the last time being a few weeks ago at a meeting hosted by the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Association. You were part of a panel with Alex Wan and Alan Venet and a City of Lakeside representative.
I am trying to guide LaVista Park through this decision on cityhood. Our location adjacent to Atlanta gives us more options than other areas may have, and that is both a blessing and a curse. We recently competed a neighborhood survey and the respondents indicated a preference for the new city in DeKalb, as of today to be named LaVista Hills. But a significant number in the minority are very concerned about our school situation given the possibility of Druid Hills and Woodland Hills annexing into Atlanta. They are concerned because they are parents, or because they are genuinely interested in good schools for our neighborhood children, or because they understand the link between property values and good schools. Regardless, I need to know what to tell LVPCA members and residents what will or could happen under a couple of different scenarios.
If Druid Hills and Woodland Hills annex into Atlanta, it is my understanding that Druid Hills High School and Middle Schools, Briar Vista Elementary, and Fernbank Elementary would all become APS properties and schools. Assuming that occurs, if LaVista Park were to stay in DeKalb schools by virtue of joining LaVista Hills or Brookhaven, where would our kids go to school? Specifically, which elementary, middle, and high school?
We may have to take another survey depending on Brookhaven’s efforts to annex commercial property south of 85, or if Druid Hills announces that it is headed to Atlanta, or both. And if such a survey occurs, I want there to be more information on the school situation. Your reply to the above question would go a long way toward helping our members understand their choices.
You probably answered this exact question at the Woodland Hills meeting, but if you could help us out again we would really appreciate it.
If there is anything else you can share about this fluid situation, please do so.
Thanks very much,
C. Steven Richards