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Parents Organize in Favor of Two Buckhead Middle Schools

Online petition calls for school board to put off decision for several years

Parents supporting two middle schools in Buckhead have organized a campaign seeking to delay for several years a final decision on sixth, seventh and eighth-grade configurations.

The parents have set up a website, www.meetinthemiddleaps.com, where citizens can sign a petition asking the Atlanta Board of Education to put off deciding whether Buckhead will have two separate middle schools or one middle school and a separate sixth-grade academy.

APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. in his preliminary recommendations for Buckhead calls for a separare sixth grade academy at the present site, with a facility for seventh and eighth graders at the current building. At a recent community meeting at North Atlanta High, Davis said the school board could delay a middle school decision.

With the deadline Monday for residents to send comments to APS regarding Davis' recommendations, the petition can be signed until Sunday, the web site said. Courtney Hollis, one of the parents supporting the effort for two separate middle schools, said that about 300 had signed the petition through early Friday afternoon.

Hollis said one major reason the group is opposing a separate sixth grade academy is that it would have from 600 to 700 students, based on APS enrollment projections for the next decade. The projections are posted on the web site.

“We don’t want a massive school,” Hollis said. “We want a local, smaller middle school.”

The group says two separate middle schools would result in half the number of sixth grade students at each school from the combined number at a separate sixth-grade site. Supporters of two separate middle schools also say that this would increase opportunities for extracurricular activities such as sports, theater, art and music. Another argument is that separate middle schools would ease transportation for families.

The support of two separate middle schools appears centered among parents of and elementary schools. APS demographers in their first proposals submitted last year called for separate middle schools, with Smith and Jackson feeding into the Sutton site. The Sarah Smith Elementary PTA this week put out e-mails in favor of the two separate middle schools

The sixth grade academy plan has also drawn strong support among some Buckhead neighborhoods. Proponents say the sixth grade academy eases the transition to middle school for fifth graders. Davis, said he supports the sixth grade option because he believes it lessens bullying of younger students.

Under Davis’ plan, the Sutton site would be used for students beginning in the fall of 2013, when construction of a new E. Rivers building will begin. The new North Atlanta High on Northside Parkway will also open that fall, with all Buckhead middle school students going to the current North Atlanta site. The E. Rivers construction is projected to last 18 months, which means a permanent middle school solution could be put off until as late as 2015. The North Atanta site is expected to eventually exceed capacity for all middle school students in the northside cluster.

Davis plans to post his final recommendation March 30, with the school board scheduled to vote on school redistricting throughout the city on April 10.

Along with the closure of 13 schools on the city’s southside, Davis calls for Buckhead elementary districts to remain the same, although he said he may make “tweaks” with and E. Rivers to head off furture overcrowding. Davis this week concluded his four community meetings on his prelimnary plan.

Those wishing to speak on Davis proposals can e-mail their comments to apsredistricting@atlantapublicschools.us.

Here is the introduction to the "meet in the middle" petition:

We support "Meet in the Middle APS", and we request that the following addition in CAPS below be added to the recommendation by Superintendent Erroll Davis and accepted by the Atlanta School Board:

"Sutton will move to the present North Atlanta High School Facility in fall of 2013. As Sutton nears capacity in its new home, the old Sutton site may be repurposed as a sixth grade academy for the cluster OR AS A SECOND MIDDLE SCHOOL, TO BE DETERMINED AT A FUTURE DATE."

3/19/12 Amendment - In the event that the APS board must decide NOW between a 6th grade academy and 2 middle schools, we STRONGLY SUPPORT 2 MIDDLE SCHOOLS.

BRP March 30, 2012 at 01:29 PM
First, you are right, Sutton IS already big and I think there are plenty of people (myself included) who do care about that. If I had to make the decision about my student today, I would not choose Sutton BECAUSE of its size. Also, Smith and Jackson parents aren't trying to take over Sutton. We simply aren't lying down and accepting what another set of parents has decided is best for everyone.
KM March 30, 2012 at 02:04 PM
APS Parent: you state, "Sutton is good now, but it could be MUCH better" but two middle schools is not the silver bullet. You also say, "We will be best served if FJ & GM & their friends, & others work together to inform APS of what we all want." There have been many in the community actively working together since 2010 when APS initially came out with their first recommendation to relieve Sutton's overcrowding - initially APS recommended two middle schools in their January 2010 communication, but after a 9 month feedback period Beverly Hall announced in September 2010 that APS had changed their recommendation to a 6th grade academy due to feedback. In these 2 years many parents from a cross section of ES schools have been discussing the pros / cons, reading research, talking with top researchers, and asking the community for feedback and it always comes back to the majority supporting a 6th grade academy. It is now time for APS to make a final decision vs. delaying this decision further. There is no straightforward answer to the question of whether a 6th grade center or two middle schools is a better solution. Strong leadership, highly qualified teachers, and involved parents certainly can mitigate problems of either configuration. Thus, let’s let APS make a decision and as a community let’s work together on mitigating any problems and escalate student achievement for all students.
Laura K. April 02, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I am a Morris Brandon parent for 2 middle schools. (Or, even 3 in a dream world!) Even if all of the feeder schools were the same size and socio-economic background, it couldn't be divided evenly in regards to size. The North Atlanta location is larger than Sutton, but half of MB kids go private for middle school; Bolton is only about 75% full; and E. Rivers would be the 3rd school. That (North Atlanta location) Middle School could actually have less kids in it than the Sutton location, filled with Jackson, Sara S. and Garden Hills (which is 121% full). Would it mean Jackson, MB, Bolton, and E. Rivers? at North Atlanta location and S. Smith and G. Hills at Sutton? Or, just a split N/S split or E/W with no regards to the elementary school? (And, please don't complain about the commute to the North Atlanta location. Bolton, E. Rivers and MB kids have been making the LONG commute in reverse to Sutton for decades.) Any solutions? Thoughts?
FJ April 02, 2012 at 06:22 PM
I don't think Jackson would be put into the North Atlanta group since many of those families live in Chastain. But that sure would go a long way towards getting buy-in from the Brandon families. Now, if they took all those Jackson families that aren't in Chastain (and there are plenty of them that are physically closer to the NA campus - the district is huge) and sent them to North Atlanta, that could work. But I just don't see them doing a split feeder thing since Davis is getting rid of that pattern all over the city.
Liliana Hojas April 03, 2012 at 12:39 AM
FJ- you are right! Many Jackson students live closer to NAHS & that would be more convenient for them. For Smith students, NA is a haul...not complaining LK, but taking East boundary kids to SMS's central location makes more sense. Must the feeder elementaries move together or can there be flexibility where it makes sense? How about input from the 6 feeders to gauge acceptance of 6thGA, two middles, or K-8? A delay on this wouldn't be bad if we get the solution right. Right?

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