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E. Rivers Uses Auditorium for Classes

PTA co-president says school, 200 students over capacity, violates city fire code

l is 200 students over capacity and has converted its auditorium into four classrooms, according to a PTA co-president.

APS officials had planned to install two temporary buildings in the fields besides E. Rivers, but city of Atlanta inspectors wouldn’t give the school a certificate of occupancy because the temporary buildings were determined to be upon a flood plain, said PTA co-president Elise Lowry. The determination was made a week before school, forcing acting Principal Sabrina Hayes and APS facilities department officials to decide to convert the auditorium into classrooms. The temporary buildings are being removed.

“We don’t have any more classroom space. Everything is spoken for at this point,” Lowry said in a telephone interview with Buckhead Patch. “We are legally overcapacity.”

Lowry, a Loring Heights resident, said the school legally has the capacity for 432 students, but the school’s enrollment for this year is 630 students. “Yes, we have all of the students under one roof, but we’re maxed out on space,” she said. She said the 200-student overcapacity violates the city’s fire code. 

Because of the ovecrowding, the school counselor’s office “is in part of a large closet in our media center,” she said. Kindergarten students have to eat lunch at 10:05 a.m. 

A previous Buckhead Patch article, based on information APS spokesman Keith Bromery provided in an e-mail, was “inaccurate,” Lowry said, in implying that the school had enough regular classroom space to accommodate all of the students. The article based on Bromery's statement made it appear that the school's enrollment is not over capacity. 

Bromery was asked this week about the temporary buildings being removed from the school. His e-mail in response said, “The portable buildings were placed at E. Rivers Elementary School as a contingency in case the school was unable to accommodate students with available space inside the main building. Once the school year got underway, it was determined that the additional space provided by the portable buildings was not needed. As a result, the portable buildings are being removed from the campus.” Bromery made no mention of the flood plain issue, or the school’s enrollment being over capacity, or of the auditorium being used for classrooms.

Lowry said that the school, which has been overcapacity for the last  three years, lacks a sprinkler system but that the school’s building is exempt from the fire code because of the year the school was built. Asked over the telephone about whether the APS was violating the fire code, Bromery said, “we couldn’t do that.”

The four classrooms in the auditorium are being used for challenge, or gifted, classes, which begin in first grade, Lowry said. The auditorium classrooms have durable wooden walls, but no ceilings. She said the challenge classes do overlap during the day and that noise is a problem because of the lack of ceilings.

The school’s gymnasium can be used for school events such as assemblies, she said, but physical educaton classes are held there during the day. Events such as the first PTA meeting Thursday night are being held at , she said.

Previous Principal David White, now acting district supervisor, and APS Facilities Department employees “looked at every nook and cranny where possibly we could have moved the trailers” and decided to place them on the school athletics fields. Bromery in a subsequent e-mail said “The city’s flood plain designations have been in flux since the flooding of several years ago.” The fields were covered with water during the 2009 floods, according to an e-mail from a Buckhead resident.

Although E. Rivers sits on a large amount of land, its uses are limited, Lowry pointed out. On the west, the campus can’t place temporary buildings because of setback laws that would prevent them from being placed close to adjacent residential areas. On the front, the building sits upon Peachteee Battle Avenue. The school has a parking lot to the east, but that couldn’t be used because of required access to utility lines.

Plus, placing the temporary buildings upon the lot would cut into the school’s limited parking space. 

“What a waste of tax dollars to have to install and then remove those trailers,” said an e-mail from Mikki Hubbard, whose son, now a senior, is an E. Rivers alum.

With the auditorium used for classrooms, “we wonder how and if they are going to be able to stage their annual production of “The Nutcracker,” which is longstanding E. Rivers tradition,” Hubbard’s e-mail said.

P.Owings August 26, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Are the city of Atlanta inspectors the same clowns that drove the varsity jr. to close over a driveway issue?

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