Opposition to Hawthorne/Henderson Mill Elementary Merger

Opposition to Hawthorne/Henderson Mill Elementary Merger

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Christy Overall started this petition to Dekalb County Board of Education

There is a proposed Comprehensive Master Plan for the Dekalb County School District that includes a merger of Hawthorne ES and Henderson Mill ES. It is the position of the Hawthorne Elementary School PTA, PAC, and Foundation Boards, current, past, and future Hawthorne parents and community, North Briarcliff Civic Association, and Lakeside, Henderson, and Coralwood communities, that building a new 900+ seat elementary school to educate our children is not what the community needs or wants.

Due to traffic, finances, and community impact, the Henderson Mill & Hawthorne merger proposed in the Oct. 4, 2021 Comprehensive Master Plan (CMP) and created by Perkins & Will for the DeKalb County School District, must be stopped. The cycle of SPLOST funding being allocated and then revoked has been ongoing for 25 years.

First issue- traffic: the North Briarcliff communities and the Hawthorne community specifically, struggle with this on a daily basis.
- The neighborhood serves as a cut through from Shallowford to Briarcliff
- Lakeside HS expansion was overturned due to, in part, the results of a traffic impact study. 
- Northlake Mall is under development and growing. An estimated 1,600 Emory employees are expected to begin occupying their new offices at this site, in December 2021.
- The Globe School has created considerable challenges with congestion on Briarcliff and Shallowford roads.

Secondly, Cost: 
- ESPLOST V promises $7 million to Henderson Mill and $4.5 million to Hawthorne ($11.5 million). The Merger proposed would cost an estimated $30-$35 million (this is based on DCSD's same proposal in 2019 to build a new school), however, it is not known if this accounts for currently spiking construction costs and timelines.
- $11.5 million is one third of the CMP’s proposed $35 million spend in this area, and is what the community wants to spend their ESPLOST tax dollars on. As this is what the community wants and involves saving over $20 million in taxpayer dollars (plus the almost 25% increase in construction costs that the industry is bearing right now), the choice to improve the existing schools, is the obvious one.

At the very least the vote to approve the CMP needs to be put on hold until the community is provided with the impact studies that still need to be conducted.  It is not acceptable to push this through without providing the community with the relevant research. Our community deserves transparency as to what facts are being used to make these decisions. 

It is also worth noting other points as to why Hawthorne merits maintaining its current size and (improved upon) facilities:

·       Community involvement and support has raised on their own over $200k to build a new state of the art and award winning, media center and outdoor playground. Since funding was not available to support Hawthorne’s needs through the school district, the community came together to raise the funds on its own.
·       Hawthorne’s inclusion program is a model for all and proves beneficial for all students and families. The relationship that we have built with our partners at The Coralwood School has been wonderful and it shows in our kids.
·       Smaller Schools are proving to be the best approach for our kids and for future generations. "In recent years researchers have discovered that the cost savings provided by large schools have had a negative effect on student achievement and graduation rates. As schools get bigger, student achievement declines and larger schools have higher rates of absenteeism, dropouts and discipline problems."
·       Sense of community – As Covid-19 has certainly re-enforced, there is an extreme need for community. Our kids deserve a community where they feel safe walking to each other’s houses or riding their bikes, without fear never ending traffic. We deserve a community where teachers, kids, and parents can come together on Friday night for a Flick on the Field or Spring Fests without a need for police and crowd control measures, while neighbors are still able to get home at night after work. 
·       We cannot have 5 more years of buckets in the hallway and toilets that don’t work, while we await a new building (if that is what is decided). It is unacceptable. Plumbing systems and fixtures reached their end of life in 1991 and in 2015 our HVAC system had a "Remaining Service Life Index" score of 2.08 out of 100.  

In conclusion, the trust that this community has placed in the DeKalb County School District has been significantly eroded after multiple commitments of ESPLOST financial support have been revoked over the years. DeKalb County has been entrusted to maintain our schools, putting Hawthorne on EPLOST III, IV, and V. Unfortunately, the school has been removed systematically from each. With the most recent plan, no research has been provided as to how and why building a 900+ seat school is best for our children and future generations. Many of the folks that live in this community grew up here and moved back specifically because it was, and is, a wonderful place to raise your children in a close knit, diverse community intown. We would like to keep it that way.


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