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News Nearby: Obama's Visit Excites Decatur

The city makes plans for the president, who will stop Thursday at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center before making remarks at the Decatur Recreation Center.

Willie Mae Browner won't go far to see President Obama during his Thursday visit to the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur.

She lives right next door, a fact not lost on friends and family in this heavily Democratic community.

"Some of them want to spend the night," Browner said. "As many will get in as we can fit."

Almost everybody in Decatur is buzzing over the president's visit. He'll arrive at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta in the late morning, stop at the Learning Center and make remarks at the Decatur Recreation Center before heading back to Washington in the afternoon.

Decatur is a solidly Democratic town in Red State Georgia. Though the state went for Romney in the November election, Decatur residents overwhelmingly voted for Obama, with 77 percent casting ballots to re-elect the president.

The president will be in Georgia about three hours total. Neither event is open to the public. The media is allowed into the rec center event.

On Tuesday, workers prepared the rec center by rolling blue tarps across the gym floor, according to 11Alive television. Active Living Director Greg White said, "I've been in the building 19 years and never had a President in this building. We're excited about the opportunity."

On South McDonough Street, city workers nailed "No Parking" signs to utility poles and street sweepers cleaned the roadway. At the ECLC, school workers spread pine straw around the school grounds.

ECLC parent April Hartle plans to arrive a little early on Thursday with her 3-year-old  to beat the traffic. "Drop off could be a little crazy," she said.

The White House isn't saying why Obama chose to visit the ECLC two days after his Tuesday state of the union address, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported he wants to use "Decatur as a backdrop to promote an education initiative to give low-income preschoolers an earlier start on their schooling."

The ECLC serves about 350 children 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten, with nine pre-K classes comprising about 200 students. The programs for the youngest children are running as usual this week. But the pre-K students are on spring break and have been invited back Thursday for Obama's visit.  

The residents on South McDonough have a good chance to see the president because the houses are built close to the school.

"We'll have folks coming over at 6 o'clock that morning," said Denise Sharif, who is staying with her mother, Alice Browne, right across from the school. "We're trying to strategize where they should park." She added, "I think we'll have a banner made."

Browner, who has lived 44 years in the house next to the school, has more modest plans.

"I'm going to wave," she said.

MrMatt February 14, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Perhaps 0bama could visit the esteemed dekalb county school board and see how effectively public dollars can be managed, and the exceptional learning successes it can reap when managed so well. It might be a good place for him to catch a nap...like other board members do. no amount of money into early, middle or late school education can overcome administrative incompetence...and nothing has proven more successful for learning than an involved, two-parent household.

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