The first citywide redistricting in Atlanta Public Schools in nearly 10 years is meeting with strong resistance from some affected communities.
More than 600 parents and community members attended a hearing on Monday night, many voicing concerns about the travel time to their children’s possible new schools, racial diversity and split neighborhoods, according to the AJC.
As many Kirkwood parents commented on this blog over the weekend, one of the latest proposals divides their neighborhood. A Kirkwood parent at the meeting said, “I don’t see a lot of other neighborhoods that are split up into thirds, and I think that’s because some neighborhoods get more respect.”
The proposed new scenarios reflect changes made after more than 8,200 comments and 800 e-mails to APS. There are more community meetings planned – tonight at Young Middle, Wednesday at North Atlanta High and Thursday at Price Middle. All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.
I received this statement from the Old Fourth community of Atlanta, which is unhappy with the proposals:
Old Fourth Ward residents have roundly rejected both new scenarios proposing comprehensive redistricting of Atlanta Public Schools. Alarmed that the most recent plans proposed by APS demographers perpetuate a long pattern of racial and socio-economic segregation of children living in the middle of the Northeast sector, residents are pushing back.
In an official position statement to APS, Fourth Ward Neighbors, Inc. neighborhood civic association outlines its opposition to new maps that carve out a gerrymandered district excluding Old Fourth Ward children from the rest of the Northeast sector. (see official statement attached) Residents are demanding that APS reject the new proposals, and instead fully integrate O4W students into the sector which incorporates Hope-Hill Elementary School, Inman Middle School and Grady High School.
Hailed by the New York Times as “a cradle of culinary and artistic innovation and a symbol of gentrification,” and dubbed “The Best Bet for the Next Hot Hood” in 2010 by Creative Loafing, Old Fourth Ward is one of Atlanta’s fastest growing intown communities. It boasts an eclectic mix of history with the up-and-coming, seniors with hipsters and historic shotgun houses in close proximity to bold, modern homes. People come from near and far to enjoy the trendy restaurants, hot clubs, arts galleries and tourists attractions that make O4W a unique cultural experience.
With a sprawling new park, expansion of the Atlanta Beltline, transformation of the former Sears building to City Ponce Market, and a trolley line connecting it to Centennial Park, Old Fourth Ward is experiencing a renaissance of confidence. Education remains the one element that falls short of the community’s ideal. An influx of young, middle class residents who are starting their families and now considering their children’s educational opportunities, is bringing the community together to resolve the longstanding educational shortcomings.
Along with the OFW position statement, residents offer a number of possible solutions, including the sale of the old Walden Middle School to fund renovation of the David T. Howard to address middle school overcrowding.
And here is the neighborhood association’s letter to APS school chief Erroll B. Davis and the school board:
When first presented with the choices provided by the initial maps released in early December 2011, Old Fourth Ward was elated that it appeared that Atlanta Public Schools finally had the courage to end the racial and economic segregation in the northeast sector (Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Candler Park, Lake Claire, Druid Hills, Poncey Highland, Virginia Highland, Morningside, Morningside/Lenox Park, Midtown, Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest). Given the direction of the second set of maps it is clear that you have not demonstrated that courage.
The Old Fourth Ward deserves and requests full inclusion of our community and schools within the Northeast sector at the K-12 levels via Hope-Hill Elementary, Inman Middle, and Grady High School.
The new maps as submitted by the demographers are astonishing in their scope of racial and socio-economic segregation of the Old Fourth Ward population from their immediate northeast neighbors and the extent to which they violate a large majority of the Priority One guiding principles.
Herein are the guiding principles that the latest options violate with respect to the Old Fourth Ward:
1. Attempt to assign students to schools located closer to their homes
● Violation: In Option B, students living in the furthest part of Old Fourth Ward will travel 2.5 miles to Inman Middle School, while students in the furthest part of Kirkwood will travel 7.1 miles to Inman via surface streets. In addition, some students in the Old Fourth Ward would travel less than a mile to Inman via the Beltline or on surface streets.
2. Attempt to maximize/keep the school feeder concept intact. No more split feeders. Clusters only.
● Violation: Both options create a split feeder at the middle school level.
3. Ensure student safety and transportation efficiency by using major highway corridors and geographic features as zone boundaries. Give weight to traffic patterns, energy efficiency, etc.
● Violation: The Old Fourth Ward community attendance of King and Coan Middle School requires the crossing of a major interstate and/or major railway corridor.
4. Minimize impact on areas that have been redistricted within the last three years.
● Violation: C.W. Hill students were redistricted when they were sent to John Hope Elementary in the 2009-2010 school year.
5. Attempt to avoid splitting neighborhoods.
● Violation: Option B currently presents a split Kirkwood neighborhood, choosing to select a whiter portion of Kirkwood to go to Inman Middle School, forcing out the Old Fourth Ward.
6. Retain ES splitting as a planning tool
● Violation: This planning tool was used in 3 of the 4 Round One options and has since been discarded for Hope-Hill, while this planning tool was kept as a valid tool for a Mary Lin/Toomer merger.
7. Consider SPLOST funded school expansion as a planning tool
● Violation: Old Fourth Ward holds a significant portion of dormant APS sites that could be used for expansion for our NE cluster.
If you accept either of the proposed Options, you, as board members:
1. Admit that it is acceptable to racially gerrymander lower income, minority students out of the Northeast sector at the elementary and middle school levels so that their largely more affluent, non-minority counterparts in close proximity may attend schools without them;
2. Accept that it is a preferable objective to racially segregate children from kindergarten to the 8th grade in the northeast sector;
3. Accept that, as educators, you have decided that in the northeast sector, lower income children are the only student population appropriate to send to middle schools that act as split feeders while a body of largely high income, non-minority students are not sent to split feeder schools;
4. Accept that, as educators, it appears that you have only allowed the low-income minority children of the Old Fourth Ward to attend Grady High School for the sole purpose of retaining Grady High School’s Title I money/subsidies;
5. Accept that, as residents of the City of Atlanta, you have chosen to hyper-segregate the population of students surrounding Dr. Martin Luther King’s home in the Old Fourth Ward to an overwhelmingly lower income, minority school population;
6. Admit there is a perception that your demographers have been heavily influenced by the seemingly segregationist arguments of some within the largely more affluent, non-minority neighborhoods in the northeast sector (based on the comparison of round one and round two maps);
7. Accept that busing non-minority students from the far away neighborhoods of Lake Claire, Kirkwood and Candler Park into Inman Middle School is an acceptable practice even though minority students in the Old Fourth Ward reside within a largely walkable distance to Inman Middle School and should rightfully attend that school;
8. Accept that racially gerrymandering the largely more affluent, majority white neighborhood of Inman Park into the Mary Lin Elementary attendance zone is an acceptable practice even though its walking-distance proximity to Hope-Hill Elementary should have demanded that it is part of the Hope-Hill attendance zone;
9. Accept that you as a board and superintendent have been complicit in the historic and systematic discrimination against poor minority students from the Old Fourth Ward for decades by excluding them regularly from attending elementary and middle schools with the student populations from Inman Park, Poncey Highland, Candler Park, Lake Claire, Virginia Highland, Sherwood Forest Morningside/Lenox Park, Midtown, and Ansley Park;
10. Recognize that it appears your demographers were heavily influenced by supporters of Mary Lin Elementary, Springdale Park Elementary and Morningside Elementary to the complete and total exclusion of the Old Fourth Ward interests that were clearly communicated via the same feedback process;
11. Admit that you have chosen to repeatedly and systematically devote financial resources to majority white neighborhoods in the northeast sector through the construction of new schools and additional classroom space that maintain and support historic racial segregation.
12. Accept that you created an academic and social disadvantage for segregated students’ ability to successfully integrate at the high school level.
13. Accept that as a board, the capacity issues in the northeast sector remain unresolved; that you refuse to allow Hope-Hill’s excess capacity to assist in relieving overcrowding at Springdale Park or Mary Lin Elementary schools; and that you did this in order to satisfy non-minority neighborhoods’ desire to exclude Hope-Hill at the elementary and middle school levels; and that you in turn propose new plans/maps to fill Hope-Hill beyond capacity with lower income minority students as an alternative;
14. Accept that Priority One guiding principles were selectively applied to favor certain communities.
We respectfully request that you immediately reject the revised maps as they pertain to the Old Fourth Ward. We look forward to an immediate revision of these maps that better integrate all communities in the Northeast sector.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog