Proposed council boundary splits campus halfway

The Southerner

By Olivia Veira

Midtown, Virginia Highland, Ansley and Morningside are up in arms. They all want control of their neighborhood high school, Grady, but newly drawn city council maps divide the school between two districts, potentially diluting their voices.

In an effort to equalize the population of the city council districts, the council is redistricting based on the 2010 census. Dana Persons, Grady parent and Midtown resident, said the council’s goal is to have an approximate population of 36,000 people in each district. Although the change in district lines does not affect APS redistricting, it does change which school board member represents Grady.

Under the provisions of Plan 6 Amended, a compromise plan approved by the Committee on Council and the Atlanta school board, the border between District 2, which would include Midtown, and District 6, which would include Virginia Highland and Morningside, runs through the Grady campus beginning at the 10th Street entrance. Under Plan 6 Amended, Grady would be shared between the new districts, Atlanta School board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane  said. Harsch-Kinnane represents School Board District 3, which includes City Council District 6 but not District 2. She said she believes that this plan leaves some issues unresolved.

“You can’t draw [district lines] through people’s houses,” Harsch-Kinnane said. “Usually it’s done on roads that are traveled or some kind of established road. There’s no such road at Grady so it seems like a problem with that alone, but I also worry about what this means for Grady because if you do put a line, you couldn’t do anything on that line.”

Plan 6, which originally assigned Midtown to District 2 and Grady to District 6, was created in response to Virginia-Highland residents’ complaints about Plan 5, which put Grady into District 2 with Midtown. Persons, who is education chair of the Midtown Neighbors’ Association, said in an email interview that separating Grady and Midtown doesn’t make sense because 45 percent of Grady students live in District 2, while 22 percent live in District 6.

Alex Wan, councilman from District 6, said before the council proposed a plan to move Grady out of Virginia Highland’s city council district, the council heard few complaints from the community.

Jessica Lavandier, Midtown resident, said many Midtown residents felt the plan “was a power grab by the District 6 neighborhood.” When the council voted on the plan, with Grady out of Midtown’s district, Midtown residents were unaware of the changes, she said.

Graham Balch, former Grady teacher and Midtown resident, concurred.

“The political grab to take Grady out of Midtown was not done to balance population in political districts,” Balch said. “It was not drafted professionally by the city’s planners. It was simply a political grab to keep control over Grady. This fight would never have occurred if we had all respected the planning process and if we had worked together collaboratively instead of trying to sneak something by without consulting Midtown leaders.”

The plans won’t change which students attends Grady, but rather which school board member represents it and which neighborhoods votes on issues pertaining to it. An early plan created a district in which APS board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane did not represent a  high school. After learning of this plan, Harsch-Kinnane contacted the board to persuade them to create another draft in which she would represent the district containing Grady.

Plan 6 amended was sent to the state municipal court for review on Jan. 6. The plan will be voted on in August and implemented in 2013, after new district elections have taken place.

Wan sees a silver lining to the conflict.

“It’s really great that Grady has [this] sort of support and the communities want to keep Grady in [their] district,” Wan said.  p high school. After learning of this plan, Harsch-Kinnane contacted the board to persuade them to create another draft in which she would represent the district containing Grady.


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