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After Board Vote, Medlock Parents Weigh Next Year's Schooling Options

Many Medlock Elementary School parents said this week they were unsure if they would allow their children to be sent to a new school.

As Khali Guion and Nicole Botha hopped around on the concrete sidewalk in front of on Wednesday, the two represented the kind of division parents at the school unsuccessfully fought for more than two months.

Once the DeKalb County School System shuts down the school for good this summer, Nicole, a kindergartner, will likely be headed to Avondale Elementary School. Under the school system's new attendance zones, Khali, also a kindergartner, is set to go to .

But her parents aren't sure whether they'll go along with that, said Linda Guion, Khali's grandmother. They're considering private school – an option also considered by many parents at the school last week after the board of education voted to close the school March 7.

"The is such a neat school. The children are exposed to so many cultures," Linda Guion said. "Decatur itself is such a cool melting pot."

The board's vote split up the school's population among Avondale and Laurel Ridge elementary schools. For two months, the school's PTA lobbied school system officials and school board members, hoping to find a way to keep the school open. Three plans were released to the public over the course of those two months: two from the school system's consultants, MGT of America, and one from interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson.

When all three plans recommended closing the school based on its low enrollment, there was little hope of keeping it open.

"We sort of felt like there was little we could do in terms of campaigning," said Tommy Houseworth, co-president of the school's PTA.

Some parents said they were fine with the school board's vote. Most, however, said they were unhappy with the change. Many said they were considering taking their children out of the county's public schools. The school board and the school system have said they have continued plans to consolidate and rezone schools as part of a larger countywide reorganization, Houseworth said, and many parents feel they're unable to take another hit.

"A lot of parents are looking at other options because they don't know what to expect with DeKalb County's future," he said. "I think people are just wanting to have more control over where their child's going to be. "

Geraldine James said she was picking up her grandson, a kindergartner, last week. The boy's family, which lives in Stone Mountain and attends Medlock Elementary through the county's school choice program, is considering private school next year, James said.The boy's parents drive him here because they like the school's small size, caring teachers and good special needs program, she said.

"They say the [county's] schools are bad. But they were really, really, really satisfied with Medlock," James said. "I know [the school board wants] to save money and all of this, but it's not about money all the time." 

Tia Jones, who has a son in pre-kindergarten, said she was stunned when she heard about the board's vote several days after it occurred. She said she was hoping her 3-year-old daughter would one day attend the school. Regardless, she's been re-zoned for Laurel Ridge Elementary, and she said she's OK with it.

"I heard Laurel Ridge is good too," Jones said.

Linda Smith, the grandmother of a third grade boy, said she substitute teaches at a small Minnesota school. When she visits, she walks from here home to school after school to pick her grandson up, she said – a fond memory that will be lost when the school closes. Her grandson will go to Laurel Ridge Elementary next year.

"He's frightened of it," she said. "It'll be a very sad day when the school closes. I've seen them do very wonderful things here. ... It's so sad because he and my older grandson, Ben, have got an amazing education here."

But the school intends to keep things positive for the remainder of the school year, Houseworth said. The PTA is organizing a Medlock Day in May that will include residents, parents, staff and students past and present, he said. There's also discussion of what to do with the building, including the possibility of using it for a charter school.

"We're going to pay rightful tribute to the school we love," Houseworth said. “We’re certainly making sure the last two months are as positive as possible."

CORRECTION: The article above incorrectly stated that Nicole Botha, who lives on Poplar Lane Way in Decatur, is zoned for Avondale Elementary School next school year. That street is zoned for Laurel Ridge Elementary School. The street name was removed from the article.

MedlockFan March 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM
This is confusing - Poplar Lane Way appears to be in the Laurel Ridge district for next year. Refer to the attendance maps recently posted on the DCSS website.
Jonathan Cribbs March 15, 2011 at 03:29 PM
It appears you're right, MedlockFan. I'm running a correction and removing any reference to the streets. Thanks for the comment.
MedlockFan March 15, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Thanks - I know that the maps only recently posted, and likely after you had deadline. Appreciate the coverage, as always!
prettyflower March 15, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Thanks for the article. This whole situation is in the forefront of my mind for sure. I have a daughter who will begin kindergarten in 2012 and one that will begin in 2015. I would be really interested in the charter school option. I have heard it requires a lot of persistence and hard work, which is intimidating, but I hope some other parents will be interested as well and we can start figuring some things out. Maybe some of our charter school forefathers can lend us some help.
David Bellknapp March 16, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Could someone please tell me where I can view the new mapping? Thanks
Jonathan Cribbs March 16, 2011 at 11:18 PM
They can be found here: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/vision-2020

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