McChesney: Still No Set Plans for Medlock Elementary
Neighborhood residents want to know what's next for the school that closed its doors on May 20.
Medlock Elementary School permanently closed its doors last month to students after 50 years due to redistricting in DeKalb County. The beloved elementary school, which had an enrollment at the time of closure of only 325 students, is set to officially close completely in June.
On many neighbors’ minds: What’s next for Medlock?
“People want to know what the answer is to something we don’t know the answer to yet,” said Don McChesney of the DeKalb County Board of Education when asked of the school’s future.
McChesney represents District 2, which includes Medlock Elementary.
He said the county is still looking for a use for the school and hopes to find a positive solution for all involved.
“At this point we do not know what the future plans will be," he said.
Patrick Kelley, a neighbor of Medlock elementary, said he moved to the area with his wife two years ago. Although his 5-month-old Luke isn’t school-age yet, he said the idea of a neighborhood school was one of several factors that led the couple to the community.
“What we all fear, probably more than anything, is an empty building used for storage,” Kelley said. “We don’t think that would be a good thing for the neighborhood.”
Rumors of a cell-tower at the vacant location are also worrisome to the new father. While he said he doesn’t see much evidence on the scientific side that the towers would cause physical harm, he feels that just the idea and talk of it may keep potential buyers away from the building.
“The cell towers are a disappointing idea because we want to keep great users of that building in place. Be it schools or a church, all of those people-oriented ideas, I believe, are less salient if there are cell towers there," Kelley said.
T-Mobile submitted a proposal for cell towers at the school to the DeKalb County Board of Education with paperwork dating before its closure in May. The school board has held various meetings to discuss the issue in which residents have opposed the towers due to safety, property values and use of space. Nothing has been decided.
Tommy Houseworth, former president of the Medlock PTA, said he thinks most people believe the school will be turned into a much larger school in the future.
“The sense is that however long it takes for them to rebuild they’ll open it up again and some of the smaller schools might be closed to move all of our kids into this bigger school. If they’re really trying to make these bigger schools it makes sense to have it there,” Houseworth said.
Houseworth and his family do not live immediately in the Medlock area. Come fall, his 8-year-old daughter will attend Laurel Ridge Elementary School, while his 10-year-old son will start at Druid Hills Middle School (formerly Shamrock Middle School).
"I know, more than anything, each family is just trying to decide what is best for their child," Houseworth said in an e-mail. "If Medlock was destined to close, then the rest of the actions taken had to be made by the individual parents and communities so that everyone could do what was right for their child."