DeKalb school board votes for system-wide repairs over 'modernizing' Druid Hills High

druid hills high school

The DeKalb County school board voted Monday to move ahead with a plan to address the most severe problems across the district rather than to ‘modernize’ Druid Hills High School. (Dean Hesse/Decaturish)

The DeKalb County school board has approved a plan to address the most severe problems in its school buildings instead of voting to “modernize” Druid Hills High School. The board was expected to vote on whether to move ahead with a plan to renovate Druid Hills after students made a video documenting damage throughout the school.

The district paid almost $2 million to an architecture firm to develop a Comprehensive Master Plan (CMP) to address building renovations. The plan recommends $52 million in upgrades to Druid Hills. In February, the board removed Druid Hills from its project list.

At Monday’s board meeting, some members seemed displeased that the video drew so much attention. Board Chair Vickie Turner said schools should get equal consideration.

“Our goal is to provide equity from the north, the south and central,” she said.

Board member Marshall Orson implied that some members resented Druid Hills because the school is in the northern, more affluent part of the county.

“We are saying to a group of students — in large part because of where their building is located — that we’re not going to make the needed investment in a decaying and decrepit facility that by all objective accounts needs that investment,” Orson said.

Druid Hills is a Title One school, meaning it qualifies for federal aid due to a high number or percentage of low-income students. Turner, the board chair, said the district has a lot of schools with problems similar to those at Druid Hills.

“We are also paying attention to the other schools: the Priority 1, 2, and 3,” Turner said. “Chapel Hill Middle School, Stevenson High School, Columbia High School … McNair, Lakeside,” Turner said. “We’re thinking about how to … put them on the table so to speak in an equitable way. We may not get everything we want, but we will get something.”

The board voted on an amended resolution that would let the district move ahead with projects labeled Priority 1, 2, or 3, meaning they are the most serious. That includes some renovations to Druid Hills and other schools but won’t cover everything.

Students from Druid Hills and Cross Keys High School, which is also due for renovations, protested outside the central office during the board meeting, chanting, “Fix our School!” At one point, Turner paused the meeting to wait for the noise to subside.

Superintendent Cheryl Watson Harris urged the board to take more time to consider the amended resolution. She said repairs probably won’t begin until August at the earliest.