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Decatur school committee favors realigning grade setup

City Schools Decatur has moved one step closer to reconfiguring the division of its elementary grades among its schools.

A steering committee of about 30 residents, city staffers and educators led by consultant Tracy Richter “strongly favored” a K-2/3-5 split, Superintendent David Dude said. “In fact that was the only (option) they wanted to present. But I was not comfortable taking only one choice to the board.” Based on a community survey, he said, “I don’t think K-2 was overwhelming with the community.”

The school district has posted a second community survey at that will remain active two weeks. Partly based on these responses the steering committee will bring a final recommendation to the board May 9. The board may make a final decision that day or later, but Dude said he wants a resolution before the school year ends.

The committee’s preferred scenario has five K-2 elementary schools: Clairemont, Glennwood, Oakhurst, Winnona Park and Westchester. The 3-5 schools will be at Fifth Avenue and the new building at Talley Street and South Columbia Drive. Meantime, the Early Childhood Learning Center remains at College Heights.

The second option keeps the K-3/4-5 alignment Decatur has used since 2004-05. This includes the five lower elementary schools, along with renovating College Heights into a K-3 and moving the ECLC elsewhere. The 4/5 Academies are Fifth Avenue and Talley Street.

Dude favors the K-2 setup. “I think it’s a more natural split,” he reiterated this week. “In my experience it’s the more popular model nationwide.” Dude said that outside of Oconee County, he wasn’t sure what districts in Georgia use the K-2 model.

Previous K-2/3-5 proposals had either Oakhurst or Glennwood repurposed into a 3-5 school, which proved overwhelmingly unpopular in the community survey the school district posted in March. That survey produced 1,200 responses and 250 pages of comments.

Moving the Early Childhood Learning Center into Columbia Ventures’ new East development, which broke ground in December, had been discussed. Dude said that plan remains a possibility, but under the proposed K-2/3-5 split it won’t happen immediately.

Decatur schools’ K-12 enrollment reached an all-time high of 5,040 this year, and has nearly doubled since 2009-10.

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