Sarah Smith PTA Asks Davis to Reverse Pine Hills Move
Says community didn't have time to study plan
Sarah Smith Elementary's PTA co-presidents have asked APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. to remove his recommendation that all of the Pine Hills neighborhood be redistricted to Smith from Garden Hills Elementary.
"We are surprised and confused by this recommendation," a letter to Davis from Katie ElHamahmy and B.J. Young says.
The letter, posted on Sarah Smith's web site, says that Davis' proposal for the entire Pine Hills neighborhood, as defined by the city of Atlanta, to be placed in the Sarah Smith district came without the community having sufficient time to study the proposal and respond. It came the day before the APS went on spring break, the letter points out.
APS spokesman Keith Bromery said in an email Monday that the redistriciting would move "approximately 100 additional students to Sarah Smith," not the 120 as projected by the Sarah Smith PTA in a previous email to the school's parents.
Bromery said that the Sarah Smith primary and intermediate campuses "have approximately a dozen classrooms between them that are currently being used for other purposes. They can be used as regular classrooms, if needed." He said the campuses "can accommodate this potential increased student enrollment."
Moving the greater Pine Hills area into Sarah Smith would also shift the Tempo Parkway Apartments at Buford Highway/Lenox Road into the Sarah Smith district from Garden Hills, an email to Buckhead Patch said. The majority of the apartments' residents are Latino.
Garden Hills has a strong program for Latino students, and Latino parents have asked in community meetings that it be kept intact.
In response to the Latinto students being moved to Smith, Bromery said, "Students currently zoned to Garden Hills Elementary School will be afforded similar outreach at Sarah Smith that they currently have at Garden Hills."
Here is the full letter sent to Davis from the Sarah Smith PTA co-presidents:
"Dear Superintendent Davis,
The Sarah Smith Elementary PTA Board respectfully requests that you remove your recommendation to zone "ALL of Pine Hills to Smith" in your Final Redistricting and Closure Recommendation. We are surprised and confused by this recommendation. As defined by the City of Atlanta, all of Pine Hills includes the area east of 400 and north of I-85, which includes over 2,500 additional residences. When members of our school community initially requested the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association (consisting of approximately 129 additional residences) be zoned for Smith, the demographers stated that this was never a possibility.mAPS would not move just this small portion of Pine Hills (the Neighborhood Association) without moving all of Pine Hills (2,500 residences in total). In the demographers' expert opinion, Sarah Smith with its higher utilization rate did not have the capacity to accommodate the bubble of 1-4 aged children in this area to its existing population. Throughout this entire process, the demographers' message has been consistent: the Sarah Smith community just did not have the necessary capacity to accommodate all of Pine Hills, as defined by the city.
Why is it now that when the expert demographers are no longer involved in the process you can say Sarah Smith has the capacity to handle "all of Pine Hills"? After repeated attempts for information last week, we have received little information and evidence that any additional analysis has been made to lead to results different than that of the expert demographers.
We also take issue with the timing of the change and the method in which it was communicated to the public. Your Final Redistricting and Closure Recommendations were posted on the APS website close to midnight last Saturday (March 31) at the start of Spring Break. Many families are not even aware of this change to your previous recommendation. Moreover, APS offices have been closed for all but one day since this release, and parent requests for any data supporting the validity of this change have gone unanswered.
APS has spent months of time and energy on this redistricting process. We have been through a year of proposals and community feedback. To end it now with a final recommendation without proper vetting and community input lacks integrity. This issue is too important to the North Atlanta Cluster to merely shift the overcrowding problem at Garden Hills to Sarah Smith Elementary School.
Absent a full demographic analysis of the impact this increase of population will have on the Sarah Smith community, we humbly ask you remove your request to zone "all of Pine Hills" in Sarah Smith Elementary School."
Katie ElHamahmy, Sarah Smith PTA Co-President
B.J. Young, Sarah Smith PTA Co-President