by: Richard Elliot Updated:ATLANTA,None —
After months of contentious debate, Atlanta Public Schools' superintendent officially presented his preliminary closing recommendations to the school board hours after he posted those recommendations online.
Erroll Davis proposes closing 13 elementary and middle schools in an effort to cut the number of empty chairs across the district. Davis said APS has more than 13,000 empty chairs right now. He claims this closing proposal will cut that number by more than half, and save the district money that will be used directly for student education, learned Channel 2’s Richard Elliot.
"Often you had some hard choices," Davis said of his 13 closing recommendations. "But the only choice you know is you couldn't afford all of them."
The elementary schools on the list include: Fain, Cook, East Lake, Humphries, Capitol View, Thomasville Heights, F.L. Stanton, White and Herndon. The middle schools on the closing list are Coan, Kennedy and Parks, Elliot said.
"The Coan Middle School part comes as a complete surprise," parent and neighborhood activist Sally Alcock said. "Closing our middle school has never been on the radar. It has never been a suggestion by APS demographers."
Alcock feels APS blindsided her as well as other Coan parents. But Davis said Coan was always on the closing list because it has only 300 students in a school built for 900.
- READ: APS Preliminary Redistricting and Closure Recommendations
- MAP: APS Redistricting/Closure Elementary Schools
- MAP: APS Redistricting/Closure Middle Schools
- MAP: APS Redistricting/Closure High Schools
"I said consistently all along that the demographers' recommendations were the demographers' recommendations," Davis said. "I would listen. I would sift. I would winnow, and I would make my recommendations."
Many of the board members expressed disappointment at the recommendations.
"I was appalled with what the solution is for Coan," board member Cecily Harsch-Kinnane who represents Coan's district, said.
"It's really a hard pill to swallow," District 2 representative Byron Amos said.
Davis recommends repurposing many of the schools he's recommending for closing, including turning Coan Middle School into a sixth-grade academy for students from Inman Middle School.
Channel 2’s Darryn Moore reviewed the proposal, which features some changes from the original plan, and said it outlines saving money, relieving overcrowding and closing neighborhood schools.
The closings would save the district thousands of dollars. They would also relieve overcrowding on the north side, meaning some students would have to go to other schools.
Several public hearings are scheduled in the next few weeks. The school board will vote on its final recommendation in April.