Parents supporting two middle schools in Buckhead have organized a campaign seeking to delay for several years a final decision on sixth, seventh and eighth-grade configurations.
The parents have set up a website, www.meetinthemiddleaps.com, where citizens can sign a petition asking the Atlanta Board of Education to put off deciding whether Buckhead will have two separate middle schools or one middle school and a separate sixth-grade academy.
APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. in his preliminary recommendations for Buckhead calls for a separare sixth grade academy at the present site, with a facility for seventh and eighth graders at the current building. At a recent community meeting at North Atlanta High, Davis said the school board could delay a middle school decision.
With the deadline Monday for residents to send comments to APS regarding Davis' recommendations, the petition can be signed until Sunday, the web site said. Courtney Hollis, one of the parents supporting the effort for two separate middle schools, said that about 300 had signed the petition through early Friday afternoon.
Hollis said one major reason the group is opposing a separate sixth grade academy is that it would have from 600 to 700 students, based on APS enrollment projections for the next decade. The projections are posted on the web site.
“We don’t want a massive school,” Hollis said. “We want a local, smaller middle school.”
The group says two separate middle schools would result in half the number of sixth grade students at each school from the combined number at a separate sixth-grade site. Supporters of two separate middle schools also say that this would increase opportunities for extracurricular activities such as sports, theater, art and music. Another argument is that separate middle schools would ease transportation for families.
The support of two separate middle schools appears centered among parents of and elementary schools. APS demographers in their first proposals submitted last year called for separate middle schools, with Smith and Jackson feeding into the Sutton site. The Sarah Smith Elementary PTA this week put out e-mails in favor of the two separate middle schools
The sixth grade academy plan has also drawn strong support among some Buckhead neighborhoods. Proponents say the sixth grade academy eases the transition to middle school for fifth graders. Davis, said he supports the sixth grade option because he believes it lessens bullying of younger students.
Under Davis’ plan, the Sutton site would be used for students beginning in the fall of 2013, when construction of a new E. Rivers building will begin. The new North Atlanta High on Northside Parkway will also open that fall, with all Buckhead middle school students going to the current North Atlanta site. The E. Rivers construction is projected to last 18 months, which means a permanent middle school solution could be put off until as late as 2015. The North Atanta site is expected to eventually exceed capacity for all middle school students in the northside cluster.
Davis plans to post his final recommendation March 30, with the school board scheduled to vote on school redistricting throughout the city on April 10.
Along with the closure of 13 schools on the city’s southside, Davis calls for Buckhead elementary districts to remain the same, although he said he may make “tweaks” with and E. Rivers to head off furture overcrowding. Davis this week concluded his four community meetings on his prelimnary plan.
Those wishing to speak on Davis proposals can e-mail their comments to email@example.com.
Here is the introduction to the "meet in the middle" petition:
We support "Meet in the Middle APS", and we request that the following addition in CAPS below be added to the recommendation by Superintendent Erroll Davis and accepted by the Atlanta School Board:
"Sutton will move to the present North Atlanta High School Facility in fall of 2013. As Sutton nears capacity in its new home, the old Sutton site may be repurposed as a sixth grade academy for the cluster OR AS A SECOND MIDDLE SCHOOL, TO BE DETERMINED AT A FUTURE DATE."
3/19/12 Amendment - In the event that the APS board must decide NOW between a 6th grade academy and 2 middle schools, we STRONGLY SUPPORT 2 MIDDLE SCHOOLS.