DeKalb County school board approves $700M for school improvements

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:33 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2023 at 1:31 PM EST
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The DeKalb County Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve a plan to replace or renovate several aging schools, including Sequoyah Middle School, which had to be evacuated Tuesday afternoon after smoke from an electrical unit filled parts of the school.

In November of 2021, voters in DeKalb County renewed a special penny sales tax to pay for major school improvements. It will bring in an estimated $700 million over five years. For more than a year, decision-makers had grappled with how to best spend that money.

The school board unanimously approved the plan Wednesday. It includes the following:

  • Construction of a New Sequoyah Middle School and New Sequoyah High School
  • Construction of a New Dresden Elementary School
  • New Cross Keys Middle School, including potential land purchase
  • Modernization of Druid Hills High School
  • Update of Security Cameras in all Schools
  • Update of Access Controls in all Schools
  • Update Intrusion Detection in all Schools
  • New or Updated Security Vestibules in all Schools
  • Update Fire Alarm Systems (as needed)
  • Update Disaster Recovery Systems
  • IT Infrastructure Refresh
  • IT Device Refresh
  • Bus and Vehicle Purchase & Upgrades
  • Update of Communication Infrastructure
  • Roof Replacement at the following schools: McNair HS, Kittredge Magnet, M.L. King Jr. HS (original building), Hightower ES, Cedar Grove MS, Jolly ES, Lithonia HS, Chamblee MS, Margaret Harris Comprehensive, Oak View ES, McLendon ES
  • HVAC Refresh at the following schools: Idlewood ES, Allgood ES, Ashford Park ES, International Student Center, Murphey Candler ES, Kittredge Magnet
  • Program Management
  • Program Contingency

According to school district officials, the board’s approval of the scope of projects outlined in the “Capital Projects and Initial E-SPLOST VI Project List” presentation allows staff to begin to take necessary action to implement these projects. All project expenses and contracts will be approved by the board in accordance with board policy, officials said.

“It signifies our commitment to making sure we address the needs of buildings throughout the DeKalb County School District,” said Dr. Vasanne Tinsley, the district’s interim superintendent.

She said all schools will be impacted in one way or another.

“The bulldozers will not be at the school tomorrow but just know that it has been passed and understand that we have the marching orders to begin actually executing those things that are on that project list,” said Tinsley.

Druid Hills High School made headlines last year when students -- upset that board members removed their school from its priority list -- produced a video that showed poor conditions inside the aging building. The school board ended up firing then-Superintendent Sheryl Watson-Harris, blaming her for the school’s disrepair.

Under pressure from the state board of education, board members added Druid Hills back to its priority list.


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