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Southeast Atlanta’s Middle School Challenge (part two)

Lewis Cartee

As the Atlanta Public School (APS) system began to reach the end of another academic school year as well as the final days of the current superintendent, Errol Davis, there was one question that many parents in southeast Atlanta needed answered: to merge or not to merge?

During the 2013-2014 school year the APS Board, Local School Council Chairs, PTA Presidents, Principals, Southeast Atlanta Communities for Schools (SEACS) as well as many other engaged members of the southeast communities, continued to focus on solving, what Davis called “Southeast Atlanta’s middle school challenge”. This discussion  included  the possibilities of kindergarten – 8th grade education (K-8) at one local school (Toomer Elementary), K-8 at all three elementary schools on the east side of the cluster or finally merging both middle schools that currently serve the Jackson High School Cluster.

As those involved waded through the myriad of possibilities, weighing both opportunities and concerns, Davis worked to create a proposal to put forth to the APS Board by the end of the school year.  The decision was made that K-8 was not a possibility at this time for the east side of the cluster, those schools which feed into Coan Middle.   Nor was Coan a viable platform for solving the challenge given its current enrollment, approximately 260. Davis then proposed that King Middle School in Grant Park, currently serving the west side of the Jackson High Cluster, and Coan Middle would merge in the 2014-2015 school year.  This merge would temporarily take place at the existing Coan facility on Hosea Williams while the current King facility is completely refurbished.

According to APS Superintendent Erroll Davis, enhanced student support in the form of additional counselors, security, social workers, etc. will be in place to ensure a smooth transition.  In addition, during the construction phase APS would once again bring together a group comprised of principals and community leaders to put together details for creating a new desirable and rigorous program to be offered at the merged middle school.  This group would also collaborate with the district to involve a university partner in creating a potential teaching lab school, while also being tasked with determining other potential purposes for the Coan site.  Possibilities include a professional learning center, a preK center and a career academy.

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