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Disparate dollar distribution disturbs Grady cluster

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Disparate dollar distribution disturbs Grady cluster

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BY OLIVIA KLEINMAN

Although Superintendent Erroll Davis’s plans for redistricting have been finalized and the new school year has commenced, problems are far from solved for the Grady cluster.

Local school council chairperson and Morningside Elementary School parent Margaret Brackett said Grady cluster parents spent countless hours providing feedback to the district throughout the systemwide redistricting process at meetings, in emails and surveys and through local school councils.

“The Grady cluster is the only cluster in the district that began and ended the systemwide redistricting process with middle-school and high-school overcapacity [and] with no relief in sight,” Brackett said.
At the March redistricting meeting, in a dialogue with Davis, district officials said student enrollment at Grady would decrease in 2012-2013 once out-of-zone students graduate out.

School board member Cecily Harsh-Kinnane said class sizes were increased by the magnet program, but since it is the magnet program’s last year and zones have been more clearly defined, there will not be overcapacity issues in the next 10 years.

“This is what everyone is thinking,” Harsh-Kinnane said. “Grady may experience a couple more years of overcrowding, … but it is projected that in a few years, the numbers will be manageable.”

Brackett said parents were told this same fact in spring 2010—that Grady’s enrollment would be close to its projected capacity (1,275 students) in 2010-2011—so additional funds would not be needed.

“I don’t think it’s true,” Brackett said. “I haven’t seen evidence from the district or school board with the reduction of students, and I haven’t seen the plan for what will be done if it doesn’t drop.”

Brackett said one parent asked the superintendent at the March meeting if the Grady portables will be removed in the next 10 years if enrollment is projected to decline. Superintendent Davis responded by saying that portables might be at Grady for the next 10 years, but that enrollment would not exceed capacity enough for expansion to be necessary.

APS deputy superintendent of operations Larry Hoskins said the headcount at Grady as of Aug. 16 is 1,466 students— 191 students overcapacity.
Hoskins said enrollment at Grady as well as feeder schools will continue to be monitored before spending millions of dollars on renovations. He also confirmed that the portables will not be permanent.

“We have to watch to see if [the enrollment] will level out,” Hoskins said. “If it does, we’ll take the portables away; but if it’s not going to level out, then we will need to build a new wing [and remove the portables].”

Both Grady and Inman, however, did have renovations in the summer of 2004, which were funded by SPLOST II. According to the system’s capital construction program status report, the budget for Grady’s 2004 renovation of the Eighth Street building was $31 million and the budget for the construction of Grady Stadium (summer of 2010) was $9 million. Inman’s budget for renovations was $17.6 million.

“Grady received a renovation in 2004, so that was their time in the cycle to get a new renovation,” Hoskins said. “If we continue with an additional SPLOST V, then maybe it will be Grady’s turn to receive funding for renovation.”

According to the superintendent’s final redistricting and closure recommendations, $15 million will be invested for additions and renovations at Mary Lin Elementary and APS is “exploring an expansion” for Springdale Park Elementary.

Another issue Davis addressed is managing the high growth rate at Inman Middle. Under present projections, there will be no available building in the cluster large enough to contain two classes of Inman students after the 2016-2017 school year.
In addition, the Grady cluster will receive funding from SPLOST IV—a 1 cent sales tax beginning in July 2012 with a projected termination date of July 2017—at the elementary-school level.

SPLOST IV designates $12.1 million for renovations at Mary Lin, $4 million for Springdale Park and $30 million allocated to “Midtown Middle.” School board member Harsh-Kinnane said “Midtown Middle” is just a placeholder for a solution to Inman’s overcrowding issue, which has yet to be decided.

“Overcrowding negatively impacts the educational experience of students, and it has been going on for a long time, which is partly why APS went through redistricting,” Brackett said. “Yet at the end of the whole process, the Grady cluster remains the only cluster not promised any funds for a middle school or high school expansion or renovation and are still overcrowded.”

APS allocated funds from redistricting for renovations of different schools. Statistics are from the Superintendent’s Final Redistricting and Closure Recommendations Report (all funds are not included above).

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