VHCA Comments on APS Superintendent Davis’ Letter to Inman Task Force

DSC_0003On July 26, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Errol Davis sent a letter to Inman principal Paula Herrema and the Inman overcrowding task force announcing his decision to recommend a small expansion of Inman Middle School – 6 to 8 classrooms consisting of a total of about 10-12,000 square feet. In effect, these classrooms will replace the temporary trailers now on Virginia Avenue. Click here to read a copy of Superintendent Davis’ letter.

We love and value Inman very much, and we will all be glad to see the discussions end and the trailers go, but in a report and meeting with the Superintendent last January, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association expressed deep concern about the wisdom of making permanent the higher enrolment levels that came with the trailers. All parties agreed that the Inman site did not meet APS’ own guidelines for field space and parking; at their time of installation, the new trailers were presented as a bridge to a solution that would have appropriate amounts of all the school spaces – buses, parking, auditorium, gymnasium, learning center – needed to accommodate the Grady cluster’s expanding middle school numbers.

Our specific worries were those expressed by many citizens on the streets adjacent to the school: the extra capacity had worsened the already challenging traffic issues in the neighborhood. A dozen-plus school buses assembling every afternoon on Clemont and Park Drive – along with waiting parents – and the accompanying general congestion are real quality of life challenges for those near the school. The effects are widespread and especially acute on Clemont and Greencove, which were never designed for such purposes and whose only outlets are onto already overloaded streets.

Last year we were part of an effort – the Inman Transportation Task Force – that has been trying to make this unwieldy situation work as well as it can. The Transportation Task Force has representatives from the school staff, APS administrators, the school PTA, the City of Atlanta Police and Traffic Bureau, VHCA, and Councilmember Wan’s office. This group – along with Inman principal Paula Herrema – have been sympathetic and energetic, and some progress has been made. The issue of there being simply too much traffic in limited space remains.

We assume that the Superintendent has concluded that this new expansion – presumably combined with the departure of Centennial students from Inman, as that school adds a 6th grade in 2014-15 and then a 7th and 8th over the next two years – will address the future middle school needs of the cluster. We hope that this premise is correct; it will be particularly disappointing if shoehorning more students into Inman’s very tight spaces doesn’t solve the long-range capacity problem. Any further additions on the site appear to be undoable.

This also represents an opportunity to try to identify approaches that will mitigate the bus and parent pickup/drop-off issues. To that end, we have been assured by our local School Board representative that she will do her very best to see that our neighborhood voices will be heard and we will be an integral part of the design process. The Superintendent made similar representations when we spoke last winter. We cannot promise exact results; we can say that we will use all the professional resources at our disposal to do everything we can in terms of communication and planning.

Our goals in this process are to produce the best outcomes possible for all those involved. The needs of Inman’s students are very important, including improved field facilities, as the Superintendent notes. The neighborhood needs to address and manage its traffic challenges. If you have thoughts and suggestions, please send them to planning@vahi.org

Lola Carlisle

Chair, VHCA Planning Committee

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Grady High to Host “State of the Cluster” Meeting

The location of a future new 6th grade academy and other capacity issues are expected to be on the agenda when Grady High hosts a State of the Cluster meeting this Thursday February 7 at 6:30 PM. The meeting is open to the public and all interested parties are invited to attend.

Click here to read a Patch story about the upcoming meeting and to view a January 31 letter from APS Superintendent Errol Davis to the Inman Task Force regarding capacity issues. In the letter Davis acknowledges last week’s meeting with members of the VHCA board of directors and their discussion of concerns raised in an analysis of the three Task Force-recommended academy sites. The analysis was done by Aaron Fortner of the planning firm Market & Main at the request of the VHCA.

Click here to read VHCA board president Jack White’s comments about their meeting last week with Davis and to view a copy of Fortner’s presentation. Fortner will provide insight on his analysis at this month’s regular meeting of the VHCA board (Mon. Feb. 11, 7 PM, Ponce library).

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