Posts Tagged ‘gresham park’

Foreclosures not the reason for enrollment drops in South DeKalb

March 2, 2011 2 comments

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.


DeKalb schools listens to parents; two South DeKalb schools stay open

February 7, 2011 8 comments

The recommendations are out and South DeKalb neighborhoods fared better than expected. Two schools, Bob Mathis and Toney elemetary were spared the axe in a proposal by interim superintendent Ramona Tyson. Bob Mathis will have its attendance lines redrawn to take in students from Chapel Hill Elemetary, and Oak View will gain students from Chapel Hill as well. I did not see any information on changes, if any, at Toney ES. It seems Toney came out of this unscathed for now. Several schools in South DeKalb will be closed as a result of last nights proposal. Glen Haven, Sky Haven, Atherton, Peachcrest and Gresham Park will all be consolidated into other schools in the area. Columbia and Towers High schools will be getting students from Avondale High, which will continue to house the DeKalb School of the Arts. Columbia High will also pull students from McNair and Southwest DeKalb. Magnet schools will remain as they are, which was a core issue for many parents in the system. Livsey ES, the only North DeKalb school slated for complete closure, was spared. Some schools that got a last minute stay are not completely out of the woods. Tyson indicated that some of those schools could be closed after the next school year. Given the scope of how deep the school closures could have been, this seems to have been a compromise that benefits as many people as possible. Instead of 14 schools being closed only 8 were recommended for closure. Roughly 9000 students will be affected as opposed to the 16000 that were projected. South DeKalb will feel the brunt of the affected students, but that was to be expected considering the number of schools that were underutilized. One thing I did notice in this process was the level of parental involvement. Parents county wide were against the merging of the magnet programs. This seemed to have an affect on the decision not to consolidate those programs. Two schools, Livsey and Bob Mathis, had a vocal contingent that made clear it did not want its schools closed. Those desires did not fall on deaf ears. Save Toney ES, I cannot recall any of the schools slated for closure being vocal about saving their schools. If they were, they were drowned out by more vocal parents from other schools. Now the recommendations will go to public hearings and a vote by the board. I am sure there will be plenty of parents from schools scheduled to be closed who will beat down on the board and toss around accusations of fairness and the dreaded racism charge, but like I said earlier, schools with parental support seemed to have won the day. This should be a lesson for those of us in South DeKalb; get involved early and stay involved. There are going to be more issues that affect parents system wide, and those who stay involved throughout stand a far better chance of having their voices heard. Now it is time to see if the system can somehow improve the performance of its under-achieving schools. Here again is where parental involvement will be paramount. See the redistricting proposals here

Our parks need some work

September 14, 2010 2 comments

I decided to write this post as a rant about the lack of quality parks near my house. It all started on Labor Day weekend. My wife and I wanted to get our three year old out of the house to help get rid of some of his three year old energy. We wanted to take him bike riding, and maybe do some swinging and playing on the jungle gym. We decided to go to a park because it would be a free way to have fun. We visited a couple of local parks, Gresham and Exchange, and neither of us was happy with what we saw. We had never been to Gresham, but we both had been to Exchange. In short, both parks failed to live up to our expectation of what a park should be. Exchange Park had half of its playground equipment unusable with two slides blocked off because of damage, and Gresham was too small to accommodate safely the number of children playing there. In fact it became clear that my three year old could not compete with the 8-10 year olds that had commandeered the play set. We left both parks, and ended up going to Georgia Perimeter and letting him ride his bike on their walking path, and playing soccer on one of their open fields. This whole experience got me to thinking are there any decent family parks in South DeKalb? The quest had started. I know of several parks in South DeKalb, though I have not been to them all, I at least knew the locations. I set out to visit some of these parks and document their strengths and weaknesses. In addition to Exchange, and Gresham, I went to Truelove (not really a park more of a softball complex), Scott(former Mark Trail), Shoal Creek, and Midway. Of those parks, only one, in my opinion, lived up to my expectation of what a park should be. A park should be aesthetically pleasing, it should provide recreational facilities that cater to many age groups, you should feel safe and comfortable, and it should be clean. Midway park was the only park that I visited that I would return to. Maybe I came at a good time, but it seems to me, if your house is unkempt, at some point is will show. Although Midway is much smaller than Gresham or Exchange, it is a better looking park when it comes to aesthetics and facility upkeep. They also do a great job keeping the park clean and useable.  On my visit, trash was at a minimum, and the landscaping was neatly manicured. I went in the middle of a weekday, so there was hardly anyone there or at any of the parks I visited, but Midway impressed me a great deal. The others, to varying degrees were unacceptable. Exchange not only had broken equipment, it also had too much garbage lying around. The playground and pavilion areas are tucked away from site especially the pavilion area. One visitor I spoke to, who was there with a couple of kids, stated she would not go to the pavilion area alone with her kids. She said she sees people go to the bottom part of the park and do whatever they want. I had never gone beyond the play area, but a quick walk down to the bottom revealed an area that is tucked away and hidden from sight. If the police do not patrol, any and all things could be happening. The athletic fields are in a better spot, and do not offer the hidden spots that the playground and pavilion areas do. At Gresham, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of visitors, some of whom said they had been coming to the park since they were knee high. They all agreed that the park itself could use more equipment. They told me that the playground equipment that they brought their kids to play on was the same stuff they played on. One guy was twenty-six, and said the only change made to the park he could recall was to fence in the playground several years ago. In a bit of irony, these teens and twenty-something’s lit up their stash as I walked away. Not the environment I would bring my three year old to. The visit to N. H. Scott was more encouraging. Scott used to be Mark Trail. I knew there was a park there, but had never been into the park. It was a surprisingly large park. With several amenities including tennis courts, several basketball courts, a pool, a recreation center, ball fields and a lot of open space. I had the pleasure of talking with a park employee who had lived in the area all his life. He had used the park from the time he was able to walk. Now he worked at the park. He walked me around and pointed out the amenities, and talked about the after school programs for the kids, and the sports programs that included football, soccer and track. But the park was in a state of disrepair. Basketball goals were broken, trash littered the front of the rec center, and beer bottles and overturned trash cans were common. Inside the rec center was very clean, but it not only showed it’s age, but it revealed the level of importance placed on the people who used the center. Multi-purpose rooms with just tables and chairs, many not matching. The game room had 2 pool tables that were torn and tattered and a foosball table. All of the windows had burglar screens, even though the windows sat relatively high off the ground. To be there was depressing for me, but for the young it was a place to go a do things instead of hanging out in the streets. The staff member I talked to was proud of his park and had a genuine concern about the future of the park. When asked what the park needed, his first answer was promotion. He said that if people knew the things that the park offered, more people would come, and that would translate into a better managed park. Before I had a child, the parks were a place for me to place basketball. Before moving into South DeKalb, I visited very few parks and then only to play basketball. Now that I am older and have a toddler, I look at the park in a completely different light. The park system needs an upgrade but one that addresses existing parks better. The county, in its parks master plan wants to add more acreage to the system. From my point of view, they would get more bang for the buck if they spruced up and maintained the existing infrastructure. I do not mind driving a few miles to a great park, as opposed to walking to a mediocre or worse park.

here is a summary of the DeKalb parks master plan. Here is a complete list of all parks in the system It is actually a good read.