What's Next for Our Local Schools?

09 Mar 2021 11:13 AM | Anonymous

Council of Intown Neighborhoods and Schools (CINS) Advocacy Update: Capacity Solutions

Coming up March 22 @ 5:30 pm - GRADY CLUSTER COMMUNITY CONVERSATION, hosted by APS. Register Online.

Long-term solutions for the Grady Cluster: Considering preferences, concerns and big ideas from the community

On February 11, CINS representatives presented to the Grady Cluster Advisory Team (CAT) the results of the Grady Cluster Schools Capacity Solutions Survey, which was administered by CINS in 2020. The survey looks ahead to 2022 when Samuel M. Inman School is empty* and asks respondents how they think the campus could best be utilized to address overcrowding in the Grady Cluster. Notable among the survey responses were strong preferences for 1) maintaining the current attendance zones for elementary schools, and 2) addressing overcrowding at the high school level by relocating the 9th grade from the high school campus through either of two scenarios outlined below.

While respondents’ desire to retain the current elementary school attendance zones is not surprising, their strong preference to consider variations on the current configurations for elementary (grades K-5), middle (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12), as well as the K-8 charter model, indicates a desire to explore creative solutions that would resolve high school crowding while keeping the cluster intact. During the CAT meeting, school representatives listened carefully to the survey presentation but immediately identified numerous hurdles to modifying the current configuration, among them scheduling and staffing, certifications, class credits, sports and clubs.

Where CINS stands

In the important work of finding a long-term solution to the capacity challenges the Grady Cluster has faced for many years, CINS has two objectives. The first is ensuring that school and district leadership carefully weigh community preferences, concerns and even big ideas when making decisions of this magnitude. The second objective is ensuring that any solution adopted to address overcrowding includes the high school level; anything less is simply not a solution.

The community survey was a good first step, but the disconnect it exposes between the community and cluster and district leadership highlights the need for further discussion between Grady Cluster families, the Grady CAT and APS, as well as greater transparency regarding the process and timeline for decision-making.

In making its decision, APS should consider both parents’ and administrators’ preferences and concerns, but it should also commission an independent, third-party study on projected population growth and optimal grade level configuration to accommodate long-term demand in the cluster. A study would provide an objective set of factors that APS and Grady Cluster stakeholders could then weigh in working collaboratively to identify the best use of the Inman campus.

A closer look at the survey

The survey ran from February 20 to March 15, 2020, and asked about:

  • Perceptions of strengths and areas of concern in each Grady Cluster school
  • Ranking of primary goals to address capacity and growth in the Grady Cluster
  • Ranking of ideas that have been proposed to address capacity and growth within the Grady Cluster
  • Concerns about redistricting
  • Concerns about rezoning

Survey respondents were presented with APS’s capacity and growth forecasts made in February 2020, which projected overcrowding in several elementary schools and the high school.

1,083 families responded to the survey; 95% live in the Grady cluster and 63% have at least one child in a Grady cluster school.

Key results

In response to the question, “What should be the primary goal(s) to address capacity growth in the Grady Cluster?”

  • 45% of respondents ranked “Ensuring elementary schools are neighborhood schools” as first or second priority
  • 37% of respondents ranked “Keeping all current schools in the Grady Cluster” as first or second priority
  • 28% ranked “Providing equal opportunity to all students in the Grady Cluster” as first or second priority

When asked to rank proposed solutions to address over-crowding:

  • 63% of respondents ranked as first or second choice: “Elementary Schools: K - 4th; Inman: 5th - 6th academy, Howard: 7th - 9th school; Grady: 10th - 12th”
  • 54% ranked as first or second choice “Elementary schools: K - 4th; Howard Middle: 5th - 7th; Inman Junior High: 8th - 9th; Grady High: 10th - 12th”
  • 35% ranked as first or second choice “Elementary Schools: K - 3rd; Inman: 4th/5th academy; Howard: 6th - 8th school; Grady: 9th - 12th”

In response to the question, “How concerned would you be if APS elects to REDISTRICT your elementary school?” 86% indicated they were concerned or very concerned. ("Redistrict" = move to another cluster)

How concerned would you be if APS elects to REZONE your neighborhood to a different elementary school either within or outside the Grady Cluster? 84% indicated they were concerned or very concerned. ("Rezone" = move to another school)

Additionally, 53% selected “Decline in the quality of schools/education” as their primary concern regarding a redistricting or rezoning decision.

The full CAT presentation can be found here.

*Inman is the temporary home of Morningside Elementary while the Morningside campus undergoes extensive renovation.

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