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Foreclosures not the reason for enrollment drops in South DeKalb

March 2, 2011

Would someone please inform the AJC that unless they have done the research, to stop insinuating that the high number of foreclosures in South DeKalb is the reason why school enrollment is down. There is no doubt that some students who leave a particular school has done so because their parents were forced out of their home, but enrollment in many South DeKalb schools has been declining for almost a decade. Here are a few examples from this year alone of the AJC making it a point to blame foreclosures for the recent enrollment drops. Here are a few examples:


From March 1st

Many speakers at the hearing accused the board of pandering to the interest of parents in affluent north DeKalb neighborhoods, while targeting schools in the south. However neighborhoods in south DeKalb are some of the hardest hit by foreclosures


In a story jan. 13th

Most of the schools slated to close are in south DeKalb, which has been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Children from those schools would move to schools in other areas of the county


This from Feb 7th

However, south DeKalb houses some of the neighborhoods in metro Atlanta hardest hit by the housing slump and foreclosures.


I did some cursory research on school enrollment at a few schools in South DeKalb, and found that the schools scheduled to close were losing kids years before the foreclosure crisis. In fact during the recent foreclosure mess and economic downturn, some schools have been able to maintained their enrollment levels. I decided to go back to the 2003-2004 school year. That was when I purchased my home, and I remember that people were still high on real estate and foreclosure was unheard of. Her is what I found:


Atherton Elementary Had 466 students in the 03/04 school year. Two years later(05/06) they had fallen to 438. Two years after that, it was down to 419, and by the 2009-2010 school year, Atherton had 399 students. Gresham Park fared far worse, going from 400 students in 02-03 to under 300 by the 09-10 school year. Both schools had massive drops that started long before the economic downturn and the resulting spate of foreclosures


Contrast that to A couple of larger schools in newer areas of South DeKalb. Oakview, opened in 2005, started out with 876 students by 2010 they had 828, a loss of 48 students, still one of the largest elementary schools in the county. Chapel Hill had 784 students in 2003, and 763 by 2010. Both schools loss less than six percent of their students.


My point is simply this; Without any hard numbers, making assumptions that foreclosures are the reasons for these school’s falling enrollment is misleading and lazy. If the reporter had a simple knowledge of the area, they would know that demographics is playing the largest role in enrollment decline. Unlike in other parts of the county, some areas in South DeKalb are not replacing students at a high enough clip for these schools to maintain normal enrollment numbers. In other areas of South DeKalb you have schools that are. These phenomenon are nothing new. In the 90’s, schools in South DeKalb that were outside 285 experienced such rapid growth that new schools had to be built to accommodate the influx of students. A decade or so from now, the declining enrollment at schools inside 285 will probably spread to those outside 285 in South DeKalb. It is a shift in demographics. Unless young people with young children move into South DeKalb, you are going to see this play out several more times in the near future.


  1. March 25, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I agree. I don’t think the drop in south DeKalb enrollment has anything to do with real estate. It has to do with a board and superintendent that keep building, designing and offering a number of theme, choice and magnet schools — effectively pulling kids from their home schools, leaving them under-enrolled.

    The kids still LIVE in south DeKalb, they just make the choice to attend a different DCSS school.

    Here’s a quote:

    It appears as though about 3,200+ students living in the south end do not attend their neighborhood school—creating the “empty seats” syndrome. Simple re-districting should be able to solve much of the under/over enrollments, in my view.

    Here’s the link to the report:


  2. Dekalbite
    March 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    “It is a shift in demographics. Unless young people with young children move into South DeKalb, you are going to see this play out several more times in the near future.’

    So true. That was the situation in my Central DeKalb neighborhood when we moved to DeKalb in the early 80s. The neighborhood was mostly populated by people with their kids already through schools and quite a few retirees. There was talk of closing Lakeside as we moved in the late 80s and early 90s. I remember that “Minority to Majority” transfers into Lakeside kept it afloat. Meanwhile South DeKalb was booming with many young people with children moving in and the schools getting over crowded. Then the retirees and older folk started moving out of my Central DeKalb neighborhood and young people started moving in. Meanwhile, South DeKalb students were “aging out” of the school system and their parents were staying put. It’s cyclical in nature and in another decade the trend will be reversed. That’s why it’s important that we look carefully what we do with school property in any area of DeKalb that is currently over enrolled or under enrolled. It’s difficult for people to take a longitudinal view since they only seem to pay attention to the school system when they have kids in it, and the BOE changes over time as well.

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