DeKalb School Board approves new Dunwoody-Chamblee Elementary

DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

DeKalb County, GA — At its November meeting, the DeKalb County Board of Education approved construction of a new Dunwoody-Chamblee Elementary School to be completed by Evergreen Construction for the lump sum amount of $31,050,000.

Mayor Lynn Deutsch of Dunwoody addressed the board during public comment, saying that while the additional capacity for K-12 is needed and the city of Dunwoody very much wants to work with the DeKalb County School District, there are concerns with the current plans. Deutsch said the only driveway does not line up with the road across the street and is a safety concern.

“It’s critical for you to understand that if this was a private project, not only would it not receive construction permits, the developer would be sent away and told not to return until the street and the driveway aligned,” said Deutsch. “We don’t believe this is an unsolvable problem.”

Deutsch suggested the district acquire additional land or either reduce enrollment or add another floor to the school, so the footprint of the building can be smaller.

“It will be shameful if a small amount of funding relative to the total cost and a small amount of time aren’t utilized to build the safest school possible,” said Deutsch.

Board member Anna Hill stated that the site plan met the state’s requirements for acreage, and that a traffic study recommended that a police officer be stationed at the school during peak hours to address increased traffic. “I just want to point out that we have professionals who have addressed these concerns,” said Hill.

“It’s tough to build schools in urban areas,” said Board member Marshall Orson. “We’ve had a very suburban mindset for a long time, but DeKalb County has become very urbanized.” He stated that while there is currently a lull in demand, all the capacity represented by new school building projects is likely to be consumed in the relatively near future.

In other business:

– Several other public commenters criticized the district’s Comprehensive Master Plan, including the specifics of how money is being spent and changes in the boundaries of school attendance zones. Maggie Tucker said that the plans to remove Sagamore Elementary from the Lakeside High School cluster would split neighborhoods down the middle and violate stated district principles concerning proximity. Carrie Fuoco and Eleanor Attwood also spoke against removing Sagamore from the Lakeside cluster.

– Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris discussed the district’s plan for mental health support for both staff and students. Teachers are being offered professional development classes on trauma-informed education, as well as modules on stress management for themselves. Staff are also being offered general wellness perks including a $1,000 vaccination incentive.

“As we know, this has been a very trying time for all of us, but the school system has been working keenly to improve outcomes for our students and our staff,” said Watson-Harris.

– The board approved a budget calendar presented by Chief Financial Officer Charles Burbridge. The calendar provides a timeline so that an approved budget for Fiscal Year 2023 can be delivered by June 2022.

– The board approved a contract with Allovue, Inc. for consulting services supporting developing the FY2023 budget, at a cost of $227,925.

– The board approved a contract extension for Frontline Education, formerly Hayes Software Systems, to provide physical inventory services in Spring of 2022 at a cost of $604,546,25.

“This is a follow-up to the initiative we started last year to address the state audit finding [with regard to inventory],” said Burbridge.

– The board approved a request to continue to retain Denton’s as a lobbyist for the district next year at a cost not to exceed $144,000.

– The board approved a request to purchase Illuminate eduClimber Platform from December 2021 through June 30, 2022 for conducting data analytics supporting learning, for a cost of not more than $265,000.

– The board approved a one-year extension of the Sprint Spectrum, L.P./T-Mobile, GTA contract at a yearly cost not to exceed $600,000. The district provides cell phones to employees who are considered emergency responders or first responders to critical services.

– The board approved a one-year extension of the contract for custodial cleaning supplies with Southeastern Paper Group, for an amount not to exceed $250,000.

– The board approved a one-year extension of the contract for district-wide grease trap and septic tank pumping services with Darling International, Inc. for $290,000.

– The board approved independent contractor agreements with Section 10, Inc. ($90,000.00), FaciliServ, Inc. ($75,000.00), Clean -A –Blind of Atlanta, LLC ($90,000.00), Chamblee Fence Co. ($95,000.00), and Crown Lift Trucks ($50,000.00).

– The board approved purchase of liquid propane from Ferrellgas, LP through a Georgia statewide contract, for the amount of $1,176,000 for November 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.

– The board approved a $1,119,111.00 purchase of large kitchen equipment for School Year 21-22 from Douglas Equipment.

– The board approved an E-SPLOST V budget reallocation in the amount of $250,000 to upgrade restrooms at Canby Lane Elementary School, Kelley Lake Elementary School, McLendon Elementary School, Pine Ridge Elementary School, and Sagamore Hills Elementary School, to meet Americans With Disabilities Act requirements. The bid for the work will be awarded to Construction Works, Inc. and the total project cost will not exceed $541,128.

– The board voted to reallocate $980,000 from the E-SPLOST V budget to complete security vestibules at Bob Mathis Elementary School, Cedar Grove Elementary School, Columbia Elementary School, International Student Center, Rainbow Elementary School, Ronald E. McNair High School, Stephenson Middle School, Stone Mountain High School, Wadsworth Magnet School, and Woodridge Elementary School. The contract for the project will be awarded to Lefko Development, Inc. dba Lefko Construction for the lump sum amount of $2,519,202.55.

– The board also reallocated $460,000 for security vestibules at Ashford Park Elementary School, Briarlake Elementary School, Chesnut Elementary School, Idlewood Elementary School, Oak Grove Elementary School, Vanderlyn Elementary School, DeKalb Early College Academy, Elizabeth Andrews High School, Henderson Middle School, and Sequoyah Middle School. The entire project to cost $2,010,775 will be awarded to Diversified Construction of Georgia, Inc.

Deputy Chief Operations Officer Richard Boyd stated that budget increases in some projects were necessary because of supply chain issues and increases in the prices of materials.

Responding to a question from Board Chair Vickie Turner, Boyd stated that the difference between the total amount for the vestibule projects is because of the difference in configuration of the vestibules and the fact that some schools have existing vestibules that are being upgraded.

– The board is considering a policy that would require background checks on all volunteers who interact with students, even when supervised by staff. The background check will be paid for by the volunteer or a sponsoring organization. Volunteers will also be expected to adhere to a code of conduct that includes appropriate and professional behavior, maintaining confidentiality where appropriate, and refraining from using school contacts to promote political or religious views. Volunteers who do not interact with students, such as those working on playgrounds when school is not in session, will not require a background check. The policy received its first read at this month’s board meeting.

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