Atlanta City Council secures second meeting with school board to air concerns

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council and Atlanta Board of Education have agreed to meet Dec. 12 to discuss the future of the city’s public school system and its facilities.

The upcoming meeting, the second in two months, is further indication of concern among city leaders for the city’s school system as it seeks to recover from the CRCT cheating scandal and an enrollment far below the system’s capacity.

The meeting of the council and school board is set for 9 a.m. at the Board of Education, 130 Trinity Ave. in the Center for Learning and Leading Auditorum.

Later Monday, at 6 p.m., the council will convene a public hearing in the council chambers at City Hall to consider its fifth plan for reconfiguring the boundaries of council districts. This is a routine process called redistricting, which is used to ensure city’s population is properly represented according to the demographic shifts charted by the 2010 Census.

The council will not discuss school board matters at the public hearing on redistricting.

Ceasar Mitchell

Ceasar Mitchell

Council President Ceasar Mitchell on Wedndesday announced the meeting with the school board. On Monday, councilmembers approved a resolution agreeing to meet with their fellow elected officials on the school board.

Just two months ago, the council and school board met for two hours to discuss matters including population shifts and how they affect the school system, the 1 percent education sales tax to pay for brick-and-mortar improvements, and remediation programs for pupils affected by the CRCT cheating scandal.

Here’s what the council’s press statement says about the recent facilities review of the school system’s capacity. Meanwhile, taxpayers last month voted to extend the penny sales tax for education that is to pay for projects including a new high school in Buckhead.

“According to the 2011 study, APS operates 85 school buildings with 9.5 million square feet of buildings covering 1,400 acres.

“School officials say those buildings have a planning capacity to serve over 62,500 students, while current APS traditional enrollment is roughly 46,000.

“Costs to maintain under-used space are significant, divert resources from other needs and may not necessarily benefit students.

“The school district is facing a potentially long period of budgetary constraints which will make the added cost of carrying under-utilized facilities more difficult than in the past, school officials say.”

Felicia Moore

Felicia Moore

Councilwoman Felicia Moore sponsored the measure Monday that called for the council’ second meeting with school board members.

“It is our hope that we will sit down again as elected officials to gather more information and discuss the need for changing the composition and makeup of our city schools,” Moore said in the city’s press release about the meeting.

“This City Council wishes to provide accurate information to constituents regarding APS plans when asked,” Moore said. “Frankly some parents are worried that their neighborhood school could shut its doors.”

In announcing the Monday meeting, council President Ceasar Mitchell said:

“This meeting furthers the relationship we have forged with the members of the Atlanta Board of Education. It is also in keeping with the open dialogue developed during our October meeting at which we discussed issues of mutual concern such as city population shifts and its impact on neighborhood public schools, and ways of the city can assist in combating truancy among other issues.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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