Atlanta School Board Chairman Reuben McDaniel said Monday night that the board will make an "up and down vote on the final package" for changes in APS schools.
McDaniel made his statement at a meeting of the Chastain Park Civic Association in which McDaniel and District 4 board member Nancy Meister, Buckhead's representative, heard parents speak in support of two middle schools for Buckhead rather than a separate sixth grade academy. McDaniel, who has a daughter at , is Buckhead's at-large member.
He said that the board would not make separate votes on items pertaining to each community, such as the middle school issue now dividing Buckhead, but would make its final vote on a unified recommendation covering the entire city. McDaniel also said that it has not yet been decided whether Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. will make one recommendation for the board's final April 10 vote, or present "one or two options."
The middle school discussion before the regular board meeting of the Chastain Park Civic Association was dominated by members of Meet in the Middle, a group organized in support of two middle schools. The group, whose members donned bright orange T-shirts, is calling for the school board to defer its middle school decision for a couple of years, since students will use the present Sutton Middlle School building for 18 months beginning in the fall of 2013 and middle school students will use the present building then.
James L. Hollis, a member of the group, said that there would be "time to work it out. Our community is strong enough to work it out together and come up with a solution everybody can live with."
A series of speakers outlined the group's positions to Meister and McDaniel: that a separate sixth grade academy would result in schools whose large size would hurt academic performance; that two middle schools would give more opportunities for students; and that two middle schools would draw from surrounding communities, retaining a neighborhood environment.
McDaniel told the group that he himself had attended a separate, large sixth grade academy feeding into five spearate middle schools and that the experience was beneficial for him.
Meister said that the separate middle schools might have to bring adjustments in district. "Jackson is a very big district geographically," she said. "Nobodoy wants to see the fifth grade split up."
She said that APS Karen Waldon, deputy superintedent for instruction, would present information to the board, which will make its decision based on "what makes the most sense" for the students.
North Atlanta PTSA Co-Present Amy Shay, who said she is neutral about the middle school debate, told the board that she had spoken to a middle school specialist at the University of Georgia and that research shows that students, especially boys, do better academically in high school after attending a sixth grade academy, because they develop better study habits.
Leigh Darby, co-president of Sutton's PTA, said after the meeting that she backs the sixth grade academy "for the community; I want us to stay together."
She said no matter what the board chooses, "I'd like to have them make a decision on April 10."
Parents in favor of the sixth grade academy have set up a website and Facebook page.