FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is Atlanta Public Schools considering a school closure and consolidation within the Jackson Cluster?
As part of the work for students, Atlanta Public Schools strives to improve quality while increasing efficiency. That is why APS continues the work to right size the district to more effectively direct resources toward the students. That has been difficult when the district works within an infrastructure that at one point was designed to service more than 100,000 students.
APS also wants to deliver the most coherent and effective academic programs possible to students as well as provide the most complete and essential services it can with limited resources.
Over the past two years, necessary changes included adopting new operating models and consolidating some schools in our district. APS does not take the matter of operating model changes, such as school mergers, lightly. A number of factors drive the work, but most importantly APS strives to improve quality while also improving efficiency.
But even after the mergers, consolidations and new partnerships of last year, the fact remains that APS has more work to do here to eliminate redundancies and create stronger, more effective programs that lead to students graduating with real choices in college, career and life.
Does APS recognize the historic context of changes in the Jackson Cluster?
The district certainly recognizes the amount of changes the Jackson Cluster has seen among its schools and across the community over recent years. For example:
- The Jackson Cluster has seen significant change over the last 15 years— including both increased school options and the removal of public housing. These changes have resulted in under-enrolled traditional neighborhood schools that are financially inefficient and have shown mixed performance over time.
- The community has expressed concern about consistent quality of the PreK-12 experience within Jackson Cluster, particularly during the middle school years.
- The community has requested additional support and investment to ensure the new King Middle School is successful.
- APS recognizes fatigue in community with changes that result in empty buildings without clear repurpose (such as Wesley Ave/Ragsdale Elementary School building and Coan Middle School in Edgewood, East Lake ES in East Lake) and is committed to creating long-term, sustainable solutions.
What proposals are under consideration as Atlanta Public Schools explores changes in the Jackson Cluster?
The district has made two proposals within the Jackson Cluster in time for the 2017-2018 school year that include a merger and a closing. A merger happens when attendance zones of two or more schools are combined and consolidated into a single school. According to APS policy and practice, staff from both schools must apply for a position at the newly merged school. The board appoints a naming committee to determine a new name for the school. A closing occurs when the attendance zone of a school is redrawn into the attendance zones of one or more existing schools. Staff positions are abolished at the closed school, and staff is encouraged to reapply within the district.
Proposal for Benteen/D.H. Stanton
Recommendation: Merge Benteen Elementary School and D.H. Stanton Elementary into a single school on the D.H. Stanton campus.
Staff: Consistent with past practices with merged schools, all staff from both Benteen and D.H. Stanton will be required to apply for a position at the newly merged school. Robin Christian, current principal of D.H. Stanton and an experienced APS administrator with a strong track record of performance, will serve as principal of the new school
Zoning: Reset part of zone between Benteen and Parkside Elementary to align with neighborhood boundaries. Specifically, this affects a small portion of the Custer/McDonough/Guice neighborhood boarding Custer Avenue. The five families impacted by the proposed rezoning would be grandfathered in, allowing students to remain enrolled at Parkside through 5th grade.
Benteen Building: In discussion with partners about the possibility of opening the Benteen building as an early childhood learning center.
Proposal for Whitefoord/Toomer
Recommendation: Close Whitefoord; redistrict students to Toomer Elementary and Burgess-Peterson Academy.
Staff Impact: The district will support all employees from Whitefoord in finding other opportunities within the district as all positions will be abolished.
Proposed Zoning: Whitefoord students who live in the Edgewood community would attend Toomer Elementary; those in the Reynoldstown community would attend Burgess-Peterson Academy.
Whitefoord Building: Early childhood program and health clinic could potentially remain open in the Whitefoord building and a satellite center could be opened at Toomer. Conversations are ongoing with Whitefoord Inc.
What is the rationale for making these specific changes?
The rationale for the Benteen/D.H. Stanton proposal is as follows:
- Benteen Elementary, with 310 students, currently stands as one of the smallest elementary schools in APS.
- Both Benteen and D.H. Stanton have significant capacity, but D.H. Stanton has a larger building. Also, a new Sheltering Arms Early Childhood Center will open this year to serve students from six weeks through PreK.
- Newly merged school will qualify for these additional staff allotments and services:
- +7.0 Core Teachers
- +1.0 Expanded Core
- + 1.0 Paraprofessional
- + .50 Counselor
- + $28,000 operating
- + $5,000 substitutes
- + $23,000 Flex Funds
- Gifted, EIP, ESOL, Special Ed, Nurse, Psychologist, and SSW will also increase, but awaiting exact allotments.
The rationale for the Whitefoord/Toomer/Burgess-Peterson proposal is as follows:
- Whitefoord Elementary, with only 272 students, currently stands as one of the smallest elementary schools in APS
- Toomer and Burgess-Peterson, both located in the Jackson Cluster within reasonable proximity of Whitefoord, have capacity to handle additional enrollments. Projections show that Toomer would take an additional 218 students from Whitefoord students, while Burgess-Peterson would take 69 of them.
- Based on district’s extensive facilities assessment report from Nov. 2015, condition and suitability scores for buildings on the Whitefoord campus ranked among the lowest in the district. Estimates to restore the buildings to original state would exceed $7 million. Toomer is currently scheduled for $4 million from SPLOST for selected renovations from January to July 2022.
Is the district aware of the growth of young children in the cluster? How does APS track/project students in the Jackson Cluster?
APS keeps regular tabs on its demographics and where current and potential students live. The district is also aware that not all families choose public education from the many options they have for educating their children.
APS employs a detailed process to make projections for student enrollment, pulling from such data sources and using such processes as:
- BASE: Current FTE-1 enrollment
- Analyze historic trends by school and grade
- Analyze U.S. Census data on different age groups
- Review new residential permits and non-residential permits, such as new transportation locations, shopping centers and employment centers, issued by City; Estimate impact on schools
- Consider approved administrative transfers
- Review grandfathering decisions due to rezoning
- Compare FTE-1 in October to FTE-3 in March to look for schools that gain or lose significant numbers of students through the school year
How will the district handle the hiring process for teachers and staff affected by changes to their schools?
Consistent with past practices with merged schools, all staff from both Benteen and D.H. Stanton will be required to apply, with interview priority status, for a position at the newly merged school. The district will support all employees from Whitefoord with interview priority status in finding other opportunities within the district as all positions will be abolished.
Additionally, the district will provide “Interview Days” for these staff members, giving them the opportunity to meet with principals.
Priority status does not guarantee employment; employees must remain in good standing and meet performance standards for the remainder of the school year to be eligible for hire at other APS schools and will receive priority interview consideration from March through November. Principals will select employees for interviews based on certifications, past experience, evaluations, attendance history and student growth data.
Principals will conduct interviews beginning Tuesday, March 7. Employees not selected for a consolidated school may apply for vacant positions district-wide between March 1 and April 14 using the standard internal online application at www.apsrecruits.us.
How will a new state charter school that will be located in the Jackson Cluster affect school enrollment?
With a state-approved charter school expected to open during the 2017-2018 school year, Atlanta Public Schools is prepared for the school to have an impact on district enrollment, especially in the Jackson Cluster.
The new charter school plans to open with 596 students from kindergarten through the sixth grade. The school would open at 1049 Cluster Ave., less than a mile away from Benteen Elementary School, in a building used by Wesley International Academy before it moved to its current site on Memorial Drive.
As a state charter school – approved by the State Charter Schools Commission and not APS – the new school can draw from students across the state. But depending on how aggressively the charter school runs its recruitment campaign, APS could lose a number of students from Benteen in particular. More than 90% of the Benteen in-zone students are within one-mile radius from the proposed school. Thomasville Heights and Parkside could also be impacted. But due to the proposed school’s state charter and proximity to the city border, it could also attract DeKalb County students attending Ronald McNair and Barack Obama elementary schools.
Since the proposed school plans to expand through to the 12th grade, enrollments for King Middle and Maynard H. Jackson High may also be impacted in the future.
What is the status of the Whitefoord Inc. partnership and any plans around the care center, early childhood education programs and other uses of the Whitefoord building?
The proposal is to keep the current health care clinic within the existing Whitefoord building open to serve the Edgewood community. A satellite clinic is proposed to open at Toomer Elementary to serve all of the students within the school.
How are incoming Pre-K families notified of potential change?
Potential changes are noted in the Pre-K Lottery application. The application has been extended to March 7 after the Atlanta Board of Education votes on changes. Once the application period closes, families impacted by any closures will be provided with an opportunity to make adjustments to their site selections before the lottery drawing takes place.
DH Stanton shows a projected Pre-K enrollment of 54 children. How many classrooms does this represent assuming that most Pre-K classrooms have between 20-22 children?
On previous presentations, the 54 students represented the current Pre-K students at D.H. Stanton (31) and Benteen (23). The presentation has been updated to accurately depict the two Pre-K classrooms. D.H. Stanton is anticipated to have with a maximum Pre-K enrollment of 44 students.
Will APS be able to restore the dual language immersion program at D.H. Stanton after a merger with Benteen?
A dual language immersion (DLI) program must have a planned articulation from kindergarten through to grade 12; therefore, it must be a part of the cluster plan. Other than that, DLI is fairly inexpensive as it does not require an additional teacher allocation but rather must be staffed with a highly-qualified fully bilingual teacher in the grade levels served. We begin in kindergarten and then roll up a grade level each year. The only additional cost is for the Spanish textbooks and materials. The cost per grade level is approximately $15,000. The budget for DLI program Spanish textbooks is on the district level in the World Language budget for all of the DLI program schools.
What is the difference in the FTE enrollment number and the projection numbers compared to the Facilities Condition Assessment report?
Enrollment numbers can change daily, so we regularly compare current enrollment numbers with the FTE (full-time enrollment) numbers from October of each school year. These numbers can be found on the Georgia Department of Education website. The enrollment projections that can be found online in the 2015 Facility Condition Assessment Report were completed in 2013. The models get recalibrated after numbers are available in October (FTE-1). We have had three FTE-1 counts since the projections used in the report, and what you are seeing now are the updated projections.
What is the potential impact if Edgewood Court closes?
There are 112 students (KK-05) in that apartment complex, and all of them attend Whitefoord. They will attend Toomer under the proposed rezoning. It is not going to impact enrollment numbers at Burgess-Peterson. We have not received any confirmation that it will close.
What will happen to the autism/moderate intellectually disabled (MOID)/severe intellectually disability-profound intellectual disability (SID/PID) units at Whitefoord?
The two autism units from Whitefoord will be relocated to Burgess-Peterson. The two MOID and SID/PID units will be relocated to Toomer. Teachers and paraprofessionals associated with these programs will be transferred as well.
Explain why budget enrollment numbers do not match for Burgess-Peterson.
Burgess-Peterson has a current enrollment of 388. There are 56 Pre-K students who are not accounted for in the budget numbers; budget numbers for 2016-2017 would use 332. If looking at 2017-2018 enrollment projections for budget planning, there are 388 students projected for enrollment at Burgess-Peterson for Kindergarten through 5th grade. The schools that would be impacted on the proposed changes have two different sets of enrollment projections – one that represents if the proposed changes go into effect and one if they are not approved.
How can parents apply for an out of zone school for the 2017-18 SY?
Parents can apply for an out-of-zone school for the 2017-2018 school year during the school choice application window, which is March 4 through March 24. Available schools for transfer will be posted the APS website on March 4. Applications can be submitted on-line or in person at the Student Assignment Department (130 Trinity, 2nd Floor). All applications received during the application window receive equal consideration. If the number of applications for a given school exceeds the number of available spaces, a random lottery will be conducted to provide each interested student with an equal opportunity to be admitted.
The Jackson Cluster already has a number of empty APS buildings? How does the district address vacant properties and buildings?
The Board and administration are committed to working with the community to identify appropriate use for vacant buildings by repurposing some of its surplus properties for residential and non-residential development.
The board on Jan. 9, 2017, named a task force with the specific mission to examine APS vacant buildings and parcels to support affordable housing. It is charged with bringing recommendations to the superintendent for consideration by June 2017. The task force held its first meeting on Feb. 2, and the group has decided to meet at least monthly between now and June 2017.
An amount of SPLOST dollars from $2 million to $5 million has been earmarked for management of vacant and dilapidated buildings. Some of the buildings will be used as swing space, which will be needed for recently voter-approved SPLOST implementation. The district will also consider early childhood options and partners.
How will the district determine names of newly merged schools?
The Atlanta Board of Education recognizes that the selection of a name for a facility is a vital component of its public image and will ensure that the name selected will reflect honorably on APS and the community. For each new school, the board will create a five- to seven-member committee that would include a board member, an Atlanta City Council member and representatives from the Neighborhood Planning Unit, the school and parent groups.
Consideration will be given to names of local communities, neighborhoods, streets, landmarks and individuals who have made a significant contribution. Nominations will be accepted by the committee from individuals, organizations or board members. Names of individuals will be considered only after they have been deceased for five years.
For more information on Board Policy for Naming Facilities, visit Atlanta Board of Education BoardDocs at http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public.
Are the scenarios final and definite? How can I express my support or concern about any of the changes recommended for the Jackson Cluster?
None of the potential changes are definite at this time. The earliest opportunity for the Board to act on any recommendations will be at its next meeting on Monday, March 6.
Community engagement has been an effective component throughout this process. In fact, the numerous changes made thus far to proposals for the future of Jackson Cluster have been a direct result of interactions with students, educators, families, community members, clergy, partners and others.
After holding a series of community meetings and sessions with community leaders, parents, staff and others, the Board has scheduled two public hearings:
- 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Whitefoord Elementary
- 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 1, at Benteen Elementary
The public can also reach out to:
- District 1 Board Member Leslie Grant firstname.lastname@example.org
- District 3 Board Member Matt Westmoreland email@example.com
- At-Large Seat 7 Board Member & Board Chair Courtney D. English firstname.lastname@example.org
- At-Large Seat 8 Board Member Cynthia Briscoe Brown email@example.com
- Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen firstname.lastname@example.org