City Schools of Decatur seeks ‘short term’ lease of Atlanta’s East Lake Elementary

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt November 5, 2015
East Lake Elementary. Photo obtained via

East Lake Elementary. Photo obtained via

Atlanta Public Schools and City Schools of Decatur officials have released more details about their negotiations to lease Atlanta’s East Lake Elementary to CSD.

Representatives of City Schools of Decatur will attend an East Lake Neighbors Community Association meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, to present their proposal for the school. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the Drew Elementary cafeteria.

Decatur is bursting at the seams with students and is looking at the property as a short-term solution while it builds more classrooms, Chief Operating Officer Noel Maloof said. On Nov. 3, voters overwhelmingly approved a $75 million general obligation bond to build additional schools and renovate existing facilities. It includes $15 million for a new elementary school. The school board has about six acres along Talley Street under contract.

“We had contacted folks outside of the district,” Maloof said. “APS has an elementary school that’s a few blocks away from one of our elementary schools that’s been empty for a few years. We approached them about leasing that building on a short term basis as a space for temporary construction now that the bond passed.”

Former superintendent Phyllis Edwards first raised the possibility of leasing East Lake during a February interview with Decaturish. Maloof said CSD is negotiating a lease with APS, but the details like the monthly rent and what the building would be used for aren’t available at this time.

“It’s very economical,” Maloof said. “The benefit for them, is not so much as a money making venture, as much as it’s nice to have somebody in your buildings instead of seeing them sit dormant.”

While Decatur has struggled with increasing enrollment, schools in east Atlanta have had the opposite problem.

Education in eastern Atlanta has undergone a many changes over the last few years. After East Lake closed in 2012, it merged with Toomer. Competition from Drew Charter prompted parents at Toomer to pursue a K-8 model there, an idea that was ultimately nixed by former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis, who instead decided to merge Coan and King Middle. There’ve been suggestions of turning the East Lake site into an early childhood learning school, like the one in Decatur, or even selling it. But the building remains empty and APS is still considering where it fits into the big picture.

In a statement, APS said, “Atlanta Public Schools is currently engaged in conversations with City of Decatur Schools regarding the short-term use of the East Lake Elementary School building. The district is also having internal discussions regarding the long-term use of the property.”

Some East Lake parents wondered if their students would have an opportunity to attend the school once it reopens under Decatur’s management. Maloof said that’s unlikely.

“This agreement would not include anything to do with APS students attending a Decatur school,” Maloof said. “This is about a facility only. Part of why we are stressing this is temporary: if they need that building it reverts back to what their needs are. If it’s not being used and we can use it, it works out for everybody … but this deal is not about anything more than renting a facility for CSD students.”

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  • Will

    Sounds like a logical short term fix to me. Only major negative is more busing of kids. I would assume some of the southern most Oakhurst kids would have a short commute.

    • Decaturite

      And buses are expensive! Shockingly so. But if you run out of space to put trailers on, you’ve got to have other options until the new building space is ready.

  • Staniel

    The GO bond information specifically said this was NOT an option. I think someone lied to us.

    • Thisten

      This is from the Go Yes Decatur website’s FAQ section. Where did they say specifically that this “was NOT an option?”

      What about using the old Avondale High School or East Lake Elementary? Can’t Decatur forge a partnership to lease school space in areas inside or outside of the city? What has the school system done to pursue this option?

      City Schools of Decatur has scouted space options within the city and talked with neighboring school systems to explore possible options for using a school facility that they have. No suitable options have been identified within city limits. While leasing an unused school outside the city is a good answer for a temporary need – Fernbank Elementary is currently housed at Avondale High, for example — the uncertainty of another system’s plans for space it owns makes leasing ill-suited as a long-term solution to Decatur’s enrollment surge.

    • Judd

      This is clearly out of desperate need for space. The City Commission delayed the bond referendum by a year — why exactly, you’d have to ask them. I wonder if this would have been necessary if they had been paying closer attention to the needs of the school system.

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