As I predicted yesterday, Drew Charter School did win approval for a new high school despite the initial opposition of APS school chief Erroll Davis.
The charter school’s parents and the school’s passionate backers staged an aggressive campaign to persuade the school board that a Drew high school was justified despite the 6,000 empty high school seats in the Atlanta system.
Drew plans to open the 200,000-square-foot high school in 2013-14 with 100 freshmen. It would add one class per year until the school reaches 600 students in 2023. The school was slated to be approved for a five-year charter.
“We’re delighted with the approval of our expansion and our high school, and we’re happy to renew in five years,” said Cynthia Kuhlman, chairwoman of the board of Drew Charter School Inc. “We’re excited about the good job we’re doing, so we wanted to be able to offer the program to more children.”
Davis originally opposed the high school and enrollment expansion, but he reversed his position Monday with a few caveats. Davis wanted Drew to receive a five-year charter rather than 10, to which the board agreed. But Davis recommended the school add only 200 students in early grades for the next three years.
Drew has not been aggressive enough in recent years at recruiting students from the Villages of East Lake, a nearby mixed-income community the school was created to serve, Davis said. As a result, the school’s demographics have become more affluent. He proposed a check in three years before allowing the school to further expand its enrollment.
“My concern is if we are going to break the cycle of poverty, there should be impoverished kids in the building,” Davis said. “And there should be a check for that.”
Drew opened 12 years ago as Atlanta’s first charter. About 1,100 students are enrolled in the school’s birth-through-eighth-grade program, a holistic education approach that’s helped revitalize Atlanta’s once-derelict East Lake neighborhood. State data show the school has more black and low-income students meeting or exceeding state standards than any other school in the district.
After a long debate about whether the expansion would hurt efforts to revitalize other schools in east Atlanta, school board members voted to allow Drew to add about 400 elementary and middle students as requested.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog