Lakeside High School Expansion - a need for better not bigger
What does a 750-seat expansion of Lakeside High School look like? And how will it impact you? Authored by Kay Colson, Barbara Arne, and Debbie Miller.
In May 2016, DeKalb County taxpayers approved a 1% tax increase (E-SPLOST V Project), by a record-setting margin, to fund school improvements. In December 2016, the Board of Education approved the superintendent’s recommendation for 605 SPLOST projects at a cost of $561M although there was community input from across Regions 1 and 2 of the school district to delay the vote on the category related to new facilities and additions. This category includes $66M for expansion to 3 existing high schools (Lakeside, Dunwoody and Chamblee) to relieve overcrowding in the district’s northern Regions 1 & 2.
For our community, this means $26M will be spent to add 750 seats to the LHS campus, bringing its capacity to 2,500+ with projected enrollment of 2600+. Expansion will include a (quote) “38-classroom addition and necessary core space and additions and/or parking spaces ...” (quote), including a multi-story parking garage at the corner of Oak Grove and Briarcliff. This work is scheduled for completion in June 2022.
We are concerned with this decision. It is a bad plan for the kids, school and community. We have contacted the Board of Education to ask them to reconsider.
This rendering which was “architect reviewed” is not the final design for the expansion but was used by DCSD to demonstrate that the proposed capacity addition is conceptually feasible and was used to establish a cost estimate for planning purposes. The architectural firm that has been selected to design the plans which will be used is Perkins + Will which is not the firm that did the above rendering.
What issues have we raised and how have we raised them?
10/31/17 Letter to Superintendent R. Stephen Green and Board of Education Members DeKalb County School District
Sent from Barbara Arne, Kay Colson, Debbie Miller and list of other concerned citizens, defining the issues and requesting the BOE to place all currently planned actions on hold in order to listen to our community’s concerns and reopen discussion on the best course of action.
- Lakeside High School (LHS) student population has already been increased to its breaking point in its current location. It is already over capacity and projected to be, once again, over capacity when this expansion is complete.
- Too few citizens, directly impacted by these decisions, are fully aware of what was decided on their behalf.
- The DeKalb County Commissioners are in unanimous disagreement with this decision because infrastructure issues have not been considered.
- The DeKalb County School District’s vision “to inspire our community of learners to achieve educational excellence” will not be supported by this decision.
- Neglected watershed, fragile ecosystem, and flooding can no longer be ignored.
11/6/17 BOE Monthly Meeting
Presentations describing the concerns were given by Debbie Miller, Kay Colson, Ed Ewing, Kenneth Lippe, Mike SanFratello, and Angela Maki.
12/11/17 Meeting with DCSD Operations
In response to our October and November activities, we were invited to attend a 1- hour meeting with DCSD Operations. Debbie Miller, Kay Colson, Ed Ewing, Barbara Arne, and Angela Maki met with Joshua Williams, Dan Drake, Trenton Arnold, and Richard Boyd. We provided facts, photos and videos to support our concerns. The response was disappointing.
- We would have to bring more hard facts (data) to them in order to be taken seriously. Is that our job ... or theirs?
- They were willing to expedite their process, i.e., Request for Quotes (in order to select the architect and proceed with due diligence to determine if plan is feasible) and organization of Construction Advisory Committee (CAC).
1/4/18 Interested Citizen Meeting
Katie Bell (preliminary CAC chair) brought 16 citizens together to discuss the issues. There were multiple attendees who have experience with DCSD and others that included architects and engineers, who all expressed concern that the BOE decision process is flawed. There was agreement around the table that leading with Safety would be the wisest approach.
1/12/18 Letter to DCSD Operations
Those attending the December 11th meeting with DCSD sent a confirmation of our understanding of the next steps and expressed concern that the defined feasibility approach (using the “architect who wins the bid”), was faulty because 1-What incentive would the winning bidder have to be objective? and 2-Additional experts would be needed to cover infrastructure (such as traffic impact) and watershed issues.
2/7/18 Lakeside High School Council Action
Voted unanimously to oppose expansion of any kind on current physical site.
3/2/18 Meeting with Dr. Green and DCSD Operations
Katie Bell (preliminary CAC chair), Danielle Goselin (LHS PTA President), Quintina Robinson (Member LHS School Council), Debbie Miller (Community Member) met with Superintendent R. Stephen Green, Area Superintendent Trenton Arnold, COO Joshua Williams and Executive Director Operations Dan Drake. We were encouraged to hear some movement on bringing in additional experts and considering alternatives.
Katie Bell explained LHS School Council opposes, by unanimous vote, the proposed expansion.
Dr. Green requested, and the group discussed alternative solutions.
Joshua Williams advised that the DCSD needed more experts to assess the situation and provide data to determine if the project is feasible. Katie Bell agreed data is important.
Josh Williams advised that the RFQ process and formation of a CAC would proceed on the accelerated schedule as planned after the December meeting.
Dan Drake suggested that other options be explored simultaneously so that, in the event the current plan is not feasible, the school system administration will be prepared.
Katie Bell, along with the PTA and LHS School Council representatives, agreed to work with the Facilities and Operations Department to explore other solutions.
There was no discussion as to who else would be involved or how communication with the community would be ensured.
What Are Our Conclusions?
- The LHS property is too small and the 1960’s facility is ill equipped to handle 2,500+ students, posing a public safety threat, negative impact on instruction, and extreme limitations to vital extra-curricular and support opportunities for all students.
- While pursuing both the RFQ and alternatives simultaneously sounds promising, in reality the CAC serves in an advisory only capacity. We are concerned, as we go down this road, that the school community will be asked to compromise to make the short-term decision work, regardless of the impact on the LHS student experience.
- There are many alternative solutions available, including new construction and re-purposing other existing facilities, that could ensure a safe and effective long-term solution.
- Our job, as concerned citizens, is to be proactively vocal and to push all of our public officials to pursue the solution that best serves our students and our community.
Need more Information? All documentation, studies and full text of letters are available.
For additional materials to support the identified concerns, please contact us using the Contact page.
Want to add your voice to push our public officials to choose a better solution?
Send your feedback to:
Dr. R. Stephen Green, DeKalb County School District Superintendent, RSGreen@dekalbschoolsga.org
Dr. Michael A. Erwin, District 3, BOE Chair, email@example.com
James L. ‘Jim’ McMahan, BOE Commissioner District 4, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Drake, Interim Chief Operating Officer, Daniel_Drake@dekalbschoolsga.org
Trenton Arnold, DCSD Regional Superintendent, email@example.com
Richard Boyd, DCSD Design and Construction Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Damian Bounds, Lakeside High School Principal, Damian_Bounds@dekalbschoolsga.org
Mike SanFratello, Lakeside High School Council Chair
Lakeside High School Cluster Summit
Julie Dasher, Lakeside High School PTA Co-President, Lakesidevikings@gmail.com
Laura Morse, Lakeside High School PTA Co-President, Lakesidevikings@gmail.com
Jeff Rader, DeKalb County Commissioner District 2, email@example.com
Allyson Gevertz, BOE Member Elect District 4, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lakeside Better Not Bigger
Educate DeKalb Education