School Board approves buying land for possible relocation of Early Childhood Learning

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt December 17, 2016

City Schools of Decatur Board of Education: (left to right) Tasha White, Vice Chair Garrett Goebel, Lewis Jones, Chair Annie Caiola, Superintendent Dr. David Dude, and Bernadette Seals. Source: City Schools of Decatur

The Decatur School Board voted Tuesday, Dec. 13, to buy .95 acres of land at the Avondale MARTA station for $1 million.

It’s currently owned by the county. City Schools of Decatur spokesperson Courtney Burnett said, “The lot that we’re looking at doubles the land we have available if we potentially want to put the Early Childhood Learning Center there.” The ECLC would potentially become a part of the Avondale MARTA station Transit Oriented Development project which officially got underway last month.

The future of the ECLC is up in the air as CSD is eyeing it’s current building, College Heights, as a place to open another elementary school. CSD has appointed a task force to study early childhood learning, but the group hasn’t presented its findings to the School Board.

During a work session on Dec. 12, Board Chair Annie Caiola mentioned that teachers at the ECLC were uncertain about their futures.

“Teachers and staff are in limbo and don’t know what their future holds,” Caiola said.

Superintendent David Dude replied that CSD is committed to early childhood learning, noting that CSD has set aside $7 million for it.

At that same meeting, the School Board discussed options presented by the Facilities Master Planning Task Force for accommodating CSD’s burgeoning enrollment. The Task Force suggested two options. The first option would reconfigure CSD’s K-5 schools into groups of three year schools: five K-2 schools and three 3-5 schools, in addition to Renfroe Middle and Decatur High. The second option would build an additional 4/5 Academy. All of CSD’s current elementary schools are K-3 feeding into one 4/5 Academy.

After that meeting, Caiola said there’s still “a lot of community input” that’s needed before the School Board would move forward with either plan.

“I will say I’m intrigued by it,” she said. “From what I heard, there are some points that make a lot of sense and some points that take a lot of hurdles to overcome. Could there be another option put on the table as we start discussing this more? Absolutely.”

She said she was also concerned that the first option presented would put all of the 3-5 schools on the south side of town.

“I understand what some people are saying is stop looking at Decatur as north Decatur and south Decatur,” she said. “There are certainly some facts to support that. The railroad tracks at College Avenue are a natural dividing line in our city and getting across the railroad tracks can take a lot of time. The goal is to have our schools as equally dispersed as possible so we can maintain true neighborhood schools.”

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