Briarlake Parents Unsure of Next Move in Cell Tower Fight
With the DeKalb County School System determined to let T-Mobile build a tower at Briarlake Elementary School, parents there aren't left with many options.
Parents at Briarlake Elementary School upset with the forthcoming construction of a cell phone tower on school property are unsure of their next move as the school system and T-Mobile move forward with their plans, a PTA board member said.
"We had hoped that [DeKalb County School System Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson] would have given this issue some time," said Stephanie Byrne, a Briarlake Elementary PTA board member. "She has decided that this is not worth her time."
Atkinson and a school system spokesman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month that the deal between the system and T-Mobile was considered done, and the system was not open to challenges.
"We respect the opinions about this," school spokesman Walter Woods said to the paper. "But at this point, we need to focus on things that haven't been decided yet. The board approved this only after extensive public comment."
But Byrne said parents at the school were led to believe that, if a tower had to be built, they would be allowed to offer input on where the tower would be constructed. Late last month, markings appeared on trees on the school's grounds, worrying parents that a site was already selected and T-Mobile was moving forward without them.
T-Mobile hasn't selected a site yet, said Shawn Blassingill, a senior development manager with T-Mobile in Atlanta. But any input from the PTA on the site's selection would need to go through the school board, he said.
"We're still tossing around ideas on locations on where it could possibly work," Blassingill said. "But all our discussions are between us and the school board."
Regardless, some Briarlake Elementary parents plan to attend the school board's meeting Monday with residents near the Margaret Harris Comprehensive School to continue their protests. The Margaret Harris site has already been selected, Blassingill said, but residents near the school have only recently found out about the construction and are circulating a petition.
Byrne said the PTA has been looking into how cell phone towers affect students with hearing implants but have not received acknowledgment from the school system on that issue.
T-Mobile hopes to start construction on the Briarlake Elementary tower in the first quarter of next year, Blassingill said. A tower can typically be built in 30-45 days, he said.