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Transition – Plan outlines middle school merger

Kirkwood and East Lake

Transition – Plan outlines middle school merger

A chart showing a transition plan for merging Coan and King Middle Schools. Source: APS
A chart showing a transition plan for merging Coan and King Middle Schools. Source: APS

A chart showing a transition plan for merging Coan and King Middle Schools. Source: APS

Atlanta Public Schools recently published a plan that provides a path forward for a merged Coan and King Middle School.

The Board of Education on April 22 voted to close Coan Middle and merge it with King.  Under the plan, Coan and King would combine in the 2014-2015 school year. During the first two years of the merger, all students would attend classes on the current Coan campus, Superintendent Erroll Davis said. While the students are at Coan, King will receive a $10 million to $20 million renovation. Students would move back to the King campus in August of 2016.

The closure came about due to low enrollment at both schools. Both schools feed into Jackson High School. BOE member Matt Westmoreland, who represents the Jackson Cluster, voted to close Coan. He said it was tough call, but combining the schools will allow APS to provide a better middle school experience for students in the cluster.

APS published its detailed transition plan on May 7. It establishes an outline for a variety of tasks related to combining the schools, from merging the cultures of the two schools, to increased security and staff.

To read the transition plan, click here.

The merged school will have about nine new staff members, according to the plan, including an assistant principal at each grade level. The transition plan says there will also be three counselors and a social worker available “to support the socio-emotional needs of impacted students.”

“Several classified positions from both impacted schools will be in place to support the transition at the combined King MS for the 2014-2015 academic year as well,” the plan says. “For example, two secretaries and two office clerks are recommended to support the administrative functions of the combined King MS. Certified employees at King MS and Coan MS have already received contracts and many have communicated their intent to remain with APS for the upcoming school year or separate from the district (i.e., resign, retire, etc.). Teachers who have returned their contracts and indicated their intent to remain with the district – and who are not in the process of being non-renewed – will be assured a position within the district for the 2014-2015 school year to fulfill contractual obligations of employment.”

There are other less bureaucratic considerations, like what the new school will be called. The school will continue to operate as Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, according to the transition plan. But Sammye E. Coan, the namesake of the Coan Middle, will also have a place within the new middle school.

“APS believes it is important to continue to honor the life and legacy of long-time Atlanta resident and international Civil Rights advocate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and renowned educator, Atlanta community activist, and namesake for the first middle school in the state of Georgia, Sammye E. Coan,” the transition plan says. “Both namesakes are important to Atlanta history. APS students can learn a great deal from and be extremely proud of both of these historic figures. Guided by community input, APS will be open to exploring unique opportunities to preserve both legacies of Coan MS and King MS in the future home of the Jackson cluster middle school.”

School leaders and parents have been digesting the plan.

King Middle Principal Paul Brown will become the principal of the merged middle schools and said he’s busy closing out the current school year while getting ready for the transition. Current Coan Principal Betsy Bockman is being transferred to Inman Middle, where she previously served as principal.

He said he’s comfortable with the APS road map for the change.

“I do, because the input was given by the administrative team,” Brown said. “We are part of that process. That plan is based on having input from the community as well as myself and Dr. Bockman.”

Kenneth Katz, a parent in the Jackson High cluster, said he likes what he’s heard so far.

“Everything I’ve heard so far is very optimistic,” he said. ” … The more opportunities we have to have more students, the happier we are because that means more resources.”

Doug Wood, another Jackson Cluster parent, said the plan looks good but he said the real test will be how APS follows through with it.

“It looks good, but will it be implemented with fidelity?  The new board wants a chance to prove that it will be, so it is a wait and see,” he said.