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Drew Charter head of school updates NPU-O on charter renewal process

Crime and public safety Kirkwood and East Lake Metro ATL Trending

Drew Charter head of school updates NPU-O on charter renewal process

Drew Charter School. Photo provided to Decaturish.

Atlanta, GA — Neighborhood Planning Unit – O, which represents East Lake, Edgewood and Kirkwood met on Tuesday, July 27, and heard an update from the head of school at Drew Charter School about the school’s charter renewal petition.

Head of School Peter McKnight explained that the school is in the process of renewing its charter, which expires in 2022. The school will apply for another five year renewal and that would be the school’s fifth charter term.

Leading up to this process, Drew Charter School completed its strategic plan. The strategic plan has four areas of focus that will also be included in the charter renewal.

The first area of focus is around equity programming. The school has most recently hired a culture, equity, and family liaison. The school has also invested in resources around equity programming and for staff training and has focused on closing opportunity gaps for their students, McKnight said.

“This has been, I think, really part of the founding mission of Drew Charter School and it’s taken different forms throughout the course of our history,” McKnight said. “We have certainly not completed this work but are excited about what we’ve done thus far and the direction that we’re headed with this work, particularly around some parent and community engagement committees, and student committees, around this work as well.”

The element of the charter that will be most significant is some changes to the enrollment policies, McKnight said.

“The first is a change to provide statutory priority, which is our highest priority, for students who are coming out of our early learning pre-K programs into our kindergarten,” McKnight said.

Enrollment previously extended just to families with children coming out of the learning programs in Kirkwood and East Lake but it will now extend to city of Atlanta residents to catch families who have moved out of the neighborhood.

“Many of them had siblings who had attended Drew, they’d already really become part of our community, and so we wanted to make sure that they had access to continue on from our pre-K programs into kindergarten,” McKnight said. “This is actually returned to a previous enrollment policy that we had in a past charter.”

The second change to the charter relates to how students are weighted in the student lottery.

“This is particularly around students who are from economically disadvantaged families,” McKnight said. “So, socio economic diversity is a key priority for us and so this will allow us to weight those students in our lottery more heavily to grant them better access to attend Drew, and this will allow us to set even higher weights for that. Currently we’re limited at five to one.”

One of the school’s important strategic focuses is maintaining and increasing its socio economic diversity and McKnight thinks the school will have additional enrollment policy changes coming.

“We just really want to engage organizations like a neighborhood and the NPU around those changes just recognizing they have an impact on the neighborhood and they have an impact on our traditional neighborhood schools as well,” McKnight said. “Again we really want to make sure that our enrollment policies grant the best possible access for families.”

Currently, about 20% of students come from the Villages of East lake, about 40% come from the neighborhoods of Kirkwood and East Lake, and about 37% come from the city of Atlanta, McKnight said.

One resident of the NPU-O area, Sara Brown, wondered why Edgewood wasn’t included. McKnight said that when the charter for Drew Charter School was originally created, it included just the East Lake neighborhood. He added that he didn’t know the timeline for when Kirkwood was added, and said the charter just never extended to Edgewood.

He was open to the idea of extending to the neighborhood and other ideas that would grant better access to the school through amendments made during the course of the charter term. He said the school didn’t have enough time to work through the ideas in preparation for the charter renewal petition.

Lastly, the charter renewal will reflect the school’s approach to COVID-19.

“We are still getting a sense of what that impact will be but we’ve put a lot of resources behind staffing, curriculum, training for academics and for mental health to support our students as they return,” McKnight said.

— In other business, Capt. Hajredin Zenelaj of the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 6 precinct gave an update on crime in the neighborhoods for the months of June and July. He said the NPU-O did well in June.

“We saw a reduction in larceny from autos but we saw an uptick in burglaries in the Kirkwood neighborhood, particularly burglaries from sheds,” Zenelaj said.

He continued to encourage residents to call the police if they run into a situation where their shed is being targeted so officers from Zone 6 can make the initial report and fingerprint the location and give the information to the burglary unit.

For the month of July, Zone 6 is seeing theft from vehicles. Zenelaj urged residents to keep their cars clean and spread that message to visitors.

“We’re not seeing a shortage of things being left in these vehicles — computers, televisions, you name it, firearms, everything under the sun it seems like,” Zenelaj said. “A lot of the reports I read were just leaving things in the cars, and that’s not to say that it’s our residents, but it might be visitors to our area here.”

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