Museum School of Avondale: New lease on life and on empty Forrest Hills Elementary.

This empty school may soon see children again as a reborn charter school. (AJC File.)

This empty school may soon see children again as a reborn charter school. (AJC File.)

The five-year lease granted tonight to the Museum School of Avondale by the DeKalb school board, coupled with the pending lease of the empty Forrest Hills Elementary School, will make the Museum School an even more desirable option for central DeKalb residents.

I know that homeowners around Forrest Hills will be delighted to see the building spruced up and revitalized as it’s been empty for several years, despite its lovely location. (I often walk by the silent site, and I will be personally happy to hear children’s voices from the playground.)

From the school tonight:

The leadership team of the Museum School of Avondale Estates is thrilled to announce that the school received its long-awaited five-year charter from the DeKalb County Board of Education on Monday night. Pending state approval, the Museum School will be free to operate under the terms of the charter for the next five years before returning to the DeKalb school board for renewal. In short, the school finally can focus exclusively on teaching kids and building community.

“This is a great day for the Museum School,” says Board Chair Sasha Webb. “After facing many challenges, we are stronger than ever, with new opportunities and supports available to us.”

The action represents a vote of confidence from the DeKalb County school board as well as Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson and former Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson. Several board members visited TMS recently, as did Atkinson. TMS board members, staff and students demonstrated the school’s commitment to academic excellence as well as the unique museum curriculum.

Webb, along with other board members and principal Katherine Kelbaugh, worked tirelessly since late last spring to build trust and reach this agreement with the local board. “We look forward to building on our early accomplishments and look forward to a successful partnership with DeKalb County Schools,” Webb says.

In other Museum School news, the school’s governing board voted last month to adopt a two-tier attendance zone. The school’s tier-one zone will include families in the current Avondale, Midway and Knollwood elementary school attendance boundaries. If the school does not receive enough applications from the tier-one attendance zone, then seats will be open to students from the second tier, which includes all of the DeKalb County school district. A recruitment committee is already working to get the word out.

Additionally, the school has a Letter of Intent to lease from the DeKalb school district the former Forrest Hills Elementary School, another indicator of the strengthened relationship between TMS and the DeKalb school board.

“All of these recent developments will position the Museum School for a bright future,” Webb says. “We have had an amazing journey, and we can’t wait to start the next chapter.”

_–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

10 comments Add your comment

Truth in Moderation

October 10th, 2011
11:05 pm

What makes this school different from a regular public school? What unique populations will it serve? Could this model exist as a private school? Will students gain entrance through a lottery? The school sounds interesting. Could you give more details on the curriculum?

Ernest

October 11th, 2011
6:18 am

Congratulations to TMS and the children of DeKalb for providing and having another option for educating children. Let’s hope those looking for an alternative to their home school take the time to review the TMS curriculum to see if it can meet their needs.

Charter supporter

October 11th, 2011
8:11 am

First and foremost, congratulations to TMS. This is well deserved. A high quality public school option for children in DeKalb County.

Second, please remember Maureen, if it had been left up to you, there would be NO Museum School. You argued time and time again about “local control” at the diatrict level. If not for the now destoyed Georgia Charter Schools Commission Act, TMS would not continued to be denied by DeKalb County Schools for ilogical reasons.

How many other communities must suffer? How many other children will fail to find a meaningful public school option because of your precious “local control”?

Lastly, there is nothing more “local” in “local control” than that of a strong governing board of a charter school.

spin doctor

October 11th, 2011
8:45 am

Well said charter supporter the school would have never given birth if DeKalb had their way

Michele Ritan

October 11th, 2011
8:47 am

As a resident of Forrest Hills subdivision, I welcome the Museum School. However, about 5 years ago, the school board refused the same request to lease Forrest Hills Elementary to the International Community (charter school)–despite neighborhood support. At that time, the school board said at a public meeting that they could not lease to a charter school; obviously untrue. The school board assured us that the school would not be vacant, which of course it has been. Certainly raises some questions about the school board’s decision process.

Deborah

October 11th, 2011
8:59 am

Glad to see that the school will once again be used for educating Dekalb children. I started the 1st grade at Forrest Hills in its first year of operation and continued through the 7th grade and graduation. I hope it can once again attain the high academic measures it once had.

Ned

October 11th, 2011
11:27 am

In answer to “Truth in Moderation,” who asked “What unique populations will it [TMS] serve?”

This isfrom the TMS website:
“The Museum School of Avondale Estates is open to all students in kindergarten through third grade who live within the attendance zone, subject to availability. The zone includes the Avondale Elementary and Midway Elementary school districts, as defined for the 2009-2010 school year. To view eligible street addresses and maps of the attendance zone, see the links below.”

So it’s kind of semi-public–it’s available to students from outside a certain area only if/when there’s an extra seat.

@Michelle Ritan: Yes, it’s interesting that Forrest Hills suddently became “available,” after being denied to another charter for 4 years, only when that other charter was finally offered–at the same board meeting–a building (Medlock) after years of work. What’s raises even more questions about the Board’s decision process is that the board apparently has agreed to basically the same TMS charter it disappproved 3 years ago, in large part because of what’s noted in the quotation above (leading TMS to seek the now discontinued state charter), and that the only board member to speak about this was not actually on the board then.

Curiouser and curiouser . ..

Ernest

October 11th, 2011
11:54 am

Michele commented,
At that time, the school board said at a public meeting that they could not lease to a charter school; obviously untrue.

I believe a law was added/changed that indicated local school systems should offer vacant buildings to charter schools. If Marney Mayo (strong ICS advocate) is reading this, perhaps she can provide more insight

Ned

October 11th, 2011
12:05 pm

The board could have leased to ICS in 2007–in fact state law has long said that school boards should make vacant buildings available to charters. Unfortunately, the law does not specify what “available” means in terms of lease fees, length, etc.

Tony Sapprano

October 11th, 2011
6:16 pm

When was the last time the DeKalb BOE made a decision based on policy and not politics?