DeKalb Schools Overcrowding Meeting Targets Latino Parents

Cross Keys High School is about 300 students over-capacity.
Cross Keys High School is about 300 students over-capacity.
Credit Dan Raby / WABE

For the second time this week, a group of parents met Thursday night to discuss overcrowding at some DeKalb public schools. The meeting, aimed at Spanish-speaking parents, was held at the Latin American Association (LAA), a nonprofit outreach organization.

A group of about 50 Latino parents gathered to hear information and give feedback about redistricting plans for Cross Keys High School and the schools that feed into it. Most of the schools have high Latino populations and are over-capacity. So, the schools are using more than 100 portable classrooms to accommodate everyone.

DeKalb has proposed 3 different redistricting options for elementary schools and two for Cross Keys High School. Sequoyah Middle School will not see any changes.

Some parents said they’re concerned about the options proposed by the district.  Even after redistricting, most schools would still have portable classrooms.  Why not refurbish the schools or build new ones?

Eli Velez is the director of the LAA’s youth programs, which work with students at Cross Keys. He encouraged the group to show up at the DeKalb school board meeting on Feb. 11 to continue voicing their concerns.

Rebecca Morris, a Cross Keys English teacher, attended the meeting with some of her students. Cross Keys has about 300 extra students. Morris said it’s tough on the students.

“Sometimes the kids have to get passes written to class because they didn’t get enough time to eat,” Morris said. “Some kids tell me they didn’t even bother getting in the lunch line, so you have kids that are obviously hungry.”

Morris said packing trailers on school campuses sends a negative message to students.

“It just kind of dampens the overall morale of like, ‘Wow, this is what our community thinks that we’re worth,’” she said. “You know, we don’t even have a path out to our trailer. We’re just walking through the mud. We have leaky trailers. They were rotting. There were termites inside of trailers.”

The LAA has partnered with the DeKalb schools to try to get the word out to the Cross Keys community. The two entities have even formed a task force to help streamline communication.

“There’s always more work to be done,” said Dave Schaefer, the LAA’s director of public policy advocacy and a member of the task force. “I think that’s true of government interactions across the board. We always want to make sure everybody has the information in their hands that they need.”

The district says it plans to build new schools eventually, but officials say redistricting is a short term solution that could be implemented in the fall.