Buckhead Reporter - January 2021

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JANUARY 2021 • VOL. 15 — NO. 1

Buckhead Reporter


Students find creative ways to support the community in pandemic crisis P19-30


‘Security Plan’ unveiled as crime outrage grows

Looking back at a historic year P5


ny’s formal opinion. Norfolk Southern and ABI both say they intend to collaborate on a new route, or “alignment.” ABI believes the general route concept can remain intact, project engineer Shaun Green previously said. “Norfolk Southern Corporation has been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of the Atlanta BeltLine project,” said Jeff DeGraff, a spokesperson for the Virginia-based railroad company, which

Community outrage over a spike in shootings and some other types of crime has hit a new peak, as 2020 ended with a 7-yearold child reportedly shot while riding past Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square resorting to metal detectors and gun-sniffing dogs. A new “Buckhead Security Plan” was a major response from local officials and organizations. The plan largely calls for beefing up existing police tactics, laws and policies. It also functions as a political challenge to public safety policies of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is directly requested in the plan to publicly denounce crime -- a call that Buckhead-area City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit is personally echoing. Bottoms has not responded directly. Instead, she has issued orders addressing some of the local crime concerns without mentioning Buckhead or any other neighborhood, and the Mayor’s Office has not responded to questions about the changes. One recent order establishes an interdepartmental working group to come up with legislation this month to address unnamed “nuisance properties” said to be linked to killings and assaults. Another orders a plan to fill vacant 911 operator positions, an issue raised by Matzigkeit after reports of callers being put on hold or getting recordings. Less noticed amid the political heat is that the overall crime rate is down and, officials say, likely would be lower if the temporary conditions of the pandemic were not shutting down courts and causing jails to turn away low-level detainees. Maj. Andrew Senzer, the commander of Buckhead’s Zone 2 Atlanta Police Department precinct, said at a December community meeting that his of-

See RAILROAD on page 6

See BUCKHEAD on page 14


Peering into the 2021 crystal ball


Workers install part of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Northeast Trail on a Georgia Power right of way along Ansley Golf Club earlier this year. A planned extension of the trail into nearby southern Buckhead has run into an objection from railroad operator Norfolk Southern Corporation.



New Year, New Beginnings P16

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Railroad’s objection slows BeltLine route into southern Buckhead BY JOHN RUCH A railroad company’s objection to the announced route of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Northeast Trail through southern Buckhead surprised attendees of a Dec. 8 planning meeting. But it was no surprise to BeltLine planners, who heard Norfolk Southern Corporation’s concerns months ago after publicly releasing the route concept without securing the railroad compa-


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2 | Education

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Atlanta Public Schools prepares for January in-person return, but COVID-19 could delay BY COLLIN KELLEY With more than 2,000 people watching in a Dec. 3 virtual town hall meeting, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring reflected on her own diagnosis with COVID-19 and how she’s using that experience as a lens when it comes to deciding whether to resume in-person learning in late January. “Being a COVID survivor will be part of the filter and lens I look through in determining our return to in-person learning,” Herring said, noting that her daughter also tested positive. “Having COVID slowed me down and made me think about my health, the health of my family, and those APS serves.” Herring said she was concerned about education loss for students as the pandemic wears on, and would like to see students back in the classroom. However, she said APS had a responsibility to monitor the COVID-19 surge and make a decision on reopening using that data and the recommendations of health and safety officials. The proposed classroom return schedule looks like this: ■ Jan. 25: Pre-K, grades 1 and 2, and special education students across all grade levels

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■ Feb. 1: Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, and 10 ■ Feb. 4: Grades 7, 8, 11, and 12 All teachers, except those who have special arrangements with APS, will be expected back in the classroom with most dealing with simultaneous learning – teaching kids in the classroom and virtually at the same time. Teachers will report Jan. 19 and will be teaching virtually from their classrooms until in-person learning resumes. Parents will still have the option to choose in-person, virtual with their child’s school, or the virtual academy model for those taking part in year-long homeschooling. As parents begin to fill out an “intent to return” declaration, Herring said that schools that reach 60 percent capacity for in-person learning may have to use a hybrid model of in-person and virtual to maintain social distancing and safety protocols. Even if face-to-face learning resumes, students will still have Wednesdays off as “independent learning days” and to allow for deep cleaning at facilities, meal-delivery, and COVID-19 testing. Students who come back to the classroom will be required to wear masks and follow other safety and sanitation protocols. There will be temperature checks and

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plans are in place to mitigate a possible outbreak. Although they’ll be back in the classroom, students will use their laptops or handheld devices at their desks to help connect them with students who are still learning virtually and with the teacher who is pulling double-duty. The leading factor on whether students will return to the classroom is the number of COVID-19 cases and community spread transmission. The White House Coronavirus Task Force placed Georgia back in the “red zone” last month as cases increased, and officials are worried that holiday gatherings could bring a surge even as vaccinations begin for some later this month. Herring also outlined the Spring and Summer Programming for Academic Recovery and Intervention Plan, which will focus not only on education, but the men-


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tal and physical health of students as well. Next June, there will be a focus on literacy and mathematics for students who are behind due to virtual learning. A parent group calling itself Committee for APS Progress plans to hold a rally on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 1 p.m. in Piedmont Park demanding that APS resume in-person learning in January.


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Permit data shows how local construction is weathering the pandemic storm BY JOHN RUCH AND MAGGIE LEE The commercial and residential construction industry is weathering the pandemic storm in local cities, though with fewer of the gigantic projects filed in 2019, according to a Reporter review of building permit filings. Building permit categories and filing methods vary among local cities, but officials agree that the number of filings is a general indicator of developers’ and homeowners’ confidence in growth and investment. And those numbers were broadly similar in 2020 compared to 2019, despite the apocalyptic pandemic and its economic fallout. Officials say that the lack of severe plunge in permit filings illustrates some of the industry changes in the pandemic. City halls shifted to online permitting and virtual inspections. The construction industry remained an “essential” business immune to shutdown orders. And there was a boost in home renovations as some people who shifted to teleworking found themselves eager to spruce up the four walls they were now staring at all day. The city of Dunwoody successfully shifted its planning staff to teleworking, says Community Development Director Richard McLeod. “We never really shut down. We closed City Hall for the most part, but we had everyone working at home and we could handle [permits] pretty well,” he said. In his city, McLeod said, “the commercial permits have dropped a little,” while residential permits “ticked up because so many people were doing home projects.” While the number of permits were similar, McLeod said, the fee revenue dipped because, especially on the commercial side, 2020’s projects were smaller. Last year, for example, including permitting for one of the new skyscrapers at State Farm’s new complex in Perimeter Center. A similar drop in large-scale projects is part of the story in Atlanta, the local city that did see a significant dip in permit filings. The city of Atlanta also briefly shut down its permitting and inspections in March. City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane said that new residential and commercial permitting citywide in 2020 is about 70% of what it was last year. But here’s the thing, he says: 2019 was Atlanta’s biggest-ever development year. “If you consider that we’re in a global pandemic, to be at 70% of the permits we did last year, the busiest year in the city’s history — it’s pretty impressive,” Keane said. Permitting in the last quarter of the year has picked up to about 85% of 2019 numbers, he said. Permit filings in Buckhead’s main ZIP codes echo the citywide trend, with singlefamily and commercial permits down about 70%. But 2019 also had a big local spike from the Peachtree Hills Place senior residences on Peachtree Hills Avenue, where each condo was permitted individually. The city of Sandy Springs had a similar 2019 spike that did not repeat: a phase of the massive Aria residential development along Abernathy Road and Glenridge Drive. Ginger Sottile, the city’s community development director, said the permit mix changes naturally year to year, and in 2020 might be tilted toward renovations rather than new construction. “I think our overall permit numbers are very consistent over the past few years,” she said. Building permits are just one window into the state of the construction industry. Not every permit it approved, and many projects that get a permit are never finished. Big projects will have many permits filed over several years. Time will tell whether the pandemic may have longer-term impacts on what is built and when, noted Burke Brennan, a spokesperson for the city of Brookhaven, which continued its permitting uninterrupted and saw little change in the numbers. “Building permits are … a step in a process, which is often months, sometimes years, in the making,” Brennan said. “As it pertains to what plans may have been interrupted by this pandemic, those results may have yet to be seen.” BH

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Author Q&A: A food historian looks at Atlanta’s culinary past and future BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN Author and food tour guide Akila McConnell will be addressing the Buckhead Heritage Society Book Club on Jan. 13 to discuss her career and her first book “A Culinary History of Atlanta,” a finalist in the 2020 Georgia Writer Association Author of the Year Awards. McConnell holds degrees in philosophy, accounting and law, and is the founder of Unexpected Atlanta, which offers tours about the city’s history and food culture. Her Buckhead Heritage appearance will be held virtually at 7 p.m. and is free, but registration is required at BuckheadHeritage.com.

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Q: Tell us about your book. A: It’s a food history of Atlanta, of course, but really it’s about recognizing stories that we

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usually don’t hear. I had read pretty much every history of Atlanta and most of those focus on the role famous people play, but I was more interested in the people you don’t hear about, such as Myra Miller, a Black woman who after the Civil War became one of the city’s most famous bakers. Who was the first restaurateur in the city? Who was doing food production? It was women. During the antebellum period, it was the slaves. It became the African Americans after slavery, and today it is our immigrant population. They are doing the bulk of food production both from a cooking angle and the food we get from our factories.

Q: You write about Martin Luther King Jr. being something of a foodie. A. Absolutely, yes, he was a huge foodie. The Civil Rights Movement was very much a grassroots organization and they needed places to have their meetings, and so Atlanta’s restaurants played a huge role in that. Paschal’s, which is still open, was a huge location for human rights gatherings -- also Busy Bee Cafe [and] Frazier’s Lounge. Restaurants had an impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

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Q: How did you go from practicing law to writing about food? A: My passion was not in the law. It was in telling stories associated with food. I quit my job when I was 30. My husband and I decided to travel around the world for three-and-a-half years. I started writing a blog about food and travel and the history behind food in different places. This blog became super popular. We were picked up by the L.A. Times and USA Today and others, and so I realized I could make a living writing about food. Then I found out that I was having a child, so we came home to Atlanta and it only made sense that I focus on Atlanta’s food stories.

Q: What are your thoughts on Atlanta’s food culture during the pandemic? A: The big change I see is there is going to be a reliance on takeout long-term. This is some-

thing that restaurants have to face, especially high-end restaurants, which is kind of unthinkable. Another thing is, the pandemic has revealed a lot of food disparities -- you see these huge lines of people at food banks. It also has revealed some real flaws in our warehousing system because there are people struggling to get food and at the same time there is all this food that’s going to waste. Another long-term consequence is that there will be more direct-to-consumer options. I own a food tour company and we have shifted to doing foodie gift boxes. It’s basically getting the middleman like the grocery store out of it. We take a much smaller margin.

Q: What’s your take on the restaurant scene in Buckhead? A: Pre-1950s, it was a high-end residential area. The restaurant scene at that time was rel-

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atively small, but then Lenox [Square] mall opened up and that was a total game-changer. When you think of places like Dante’s Down the Hatch, a Buckhead institution, it’s not a coincidence that it was located directly across the street from Lenox mall. It was very intentional because that’s where everybody in the city was coming to shop. There was nowhere like Lenox anywhere in the South. Even today you see all the restaurants congregated mainly on Peachtree, around the Lenox mall hub. A single anchor can define what a neighborhood becomes. Buckhead continues to evolve and is more upscale, continuing to push that gourmet level higher, whereas in some other locations there is less of that. That’s fascinating to me. Akila McConnell. SPECIAL BH


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CITYHOOD TALK RISES AGAIN A mysterious committee revived an old idea of Buckhead leaving Atlanta to become its own city or merge with a neighboring one. Driven by concerns about crime and the quality of city services, the idea was widely condemned as divisive and criticized as impractical.

A NEW ‘MAYOR’ OF BUCKHEAD BY JOHN RUCH A global pandemic. Protests. Rioting. Any recap of a historic year in Buckhead reads like a dystopian sci-fi novel. But the intertwined stories of racial justice protests, public safety policy and a revived cityhood movement are very real and may well influence 2021’s big story: a mayoral election. Also all too real in the still-raging pandemic are the lives lost and the livelihoods ruined.

Former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell was long known as the unofficial “mayor of Buckhead” as leader of the influential nonprofit the Buckhead Coalition. His new successor Jim Durrett has something much closer to that kind of power, as he simultaneously heads the Buckhead Community Improvement District. That tighter alignment has already led to such major efforts as the “Buckhead Security Plan” while also raising issues of transparency, as the Coalition is a private group.

PARTY MANSION CRACKDOWN Noisy parties at Buckhead mansions is an old issue that returned to the spotlight as City Councilmember Howard Shook complained about being a neighbor of one that hosted such events as “the world’s biggest topless pool party” amid the pandemic. The city approved a longawaited ban on such rentals in the zoning code and legislation is in the works that could create a licensing and registration system for short-term rentals.



Workers board up shattered windows at the Cyan on Peachtree apartments at 3380 Peachtree Road on May 30.

RACIAL JUSTICE PROTESTS AND RIOTING When largely peaceful protests against the police killing of George Floyd came to Downtown in May, the first night spun off widespread rioting and looting in Buckhead for still-debated motives. Despite that shock, some local organizations voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and many peaceful protests came to the neighborhood, affecting policies in private schools and bringing down a Confederate monument at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. But the public mood shifted amid crime concerns, and proposals for racial dialogue have not materialized as they have in neighboring cities like Brookhaven and Sandy Springs.

A CRIMEFIGHTING PLAN While overall crime is down, shootings and car thefts are up. Local consideration of protesters’ calls for police reform evaporated with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ controversial reaction to the June police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Peoplestown, where she condemned the officers and accepted the resignation of BH

locally popular Chief Erika Shields. Gov. Brian Kemp called out the National Guard with police powers, including at his official mansion in Buckhead. By year’s end, a privately developed “Buckhead Security Plan” -- calling for beefedup versions of off-duty patrols and camera systems, among other items -- was in place and awaiting a 2021 execution.

The struggling Buckhead Village shopping complex long criticized for ultraupscale prices and ridiculed for an ever-changing series of confusing names -- most recently “The Shops Buckhead Atlanta” -- got a well-received monicker and a pending remake under new owner Jamestown. Now called the Buckhead

Village District, the complex aims to be more of a community hangout and hosted drive-in movies for the holidays.

TAX BREAK DEBATES ROLL ON A 2019 political debate over tax breaks granted to luxury real estate developments in Buckhead and other hot markets carried over into 2020. The Atlanta City Council joined those calling for the Development Authority of Fulton County to cease such deals within city limits. The county authority said no, but its CEO and board chair soon retired. Expect tax breaks to get more scrutiny in 2021, especially if pandemic-hit budgets remain tight.

ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS GETS NEW LEADER IN PANDEMIC Atlanta Public Schools welcomed new Superintendent Lisa Herring in the midst of the pandemic, where she immediately faced an increasingly heated debate over when and how to return to in-person classes. Local parents remain divided on the issue, with Buckhead being the city’s hotbed of return-to-the-classroom activism through a group called Committee for APS Progress.

INFLUENTIAL ELECTIONS A monumental presidential election was just one way voters changed politics in a way of local interest. The ongoing “blue wave” cemented Democratic control of state legislative seats in the area. The elections of Pat Labat as the new Fulton County sheriff and Fani Willis as the new district attorney were locally favored as potentially tougher and more innovative on crimefighting. And next year comes a city election where the question remains whether two-time candidate and current Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods chair Mary Norwood will run again, a possibility she declined to rule out.

PANDEMIC NIGHTMARE Early hints of the scale of the pandemic nightmare came in precautions at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, which eventually opened a new tower early to handle a surge, and the closure of Lenox Square. Bottoms and Kemp debated shutdowns and mask mandates in court. Less commuting made for open streets -- and street racers, raising yet another crime concern. Some local changes -- like turning Chastain Park’s golf course into an open parkland -- didn’t stick. But the long-term business impacts remain to be seen.

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Railroad’s objection slows BeltLine route into southern Buckhead Continued from page 1

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is in the midst of moving its headquarters to Atlanta. In a written response to questions from the Reporter, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. did not directly answer why the route was revealed earlier this year without a warning about Norfolk Southern’s review, why the railroad company’s objection was not immediately publicized, and whether there are any other pending reviews that could alter the route. MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation both say they have not given formal opinions about the proposed route, either, though it is unclear what impact, if any, that has on the planning. GDOT was given the proposed alignment for review in July, according to ABI. Natalie Dale, a spokesperson for the department, said that “GDOT has not made a decision on alignments for the BeltLine.” “When MARTA saw the plans it was a sharing of files, an FYI, and no comments were recorded as it was related to the path alternative” and not related to the transit portion, said MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher. The BeltLine is a proposed system of multiuse trails and an accompanying light-rail mass transit line that would encircle intown Atlanta, largely using old railroad corridors. The transit has yet to be built, while several segments of the trail are already open, including the Northside Trail in Buckhead’s Tanyard Creek and Atlanta Memorial parks area.

A complicated route The Northeast Trail segment would connect the existing Eastside Trail from Monroe Drive and 10th Street in Midtown to the Lindbergh Center MARTA Station. A short section along the Ansley Golf Club will open in a semi-finished state by late January, and a longer section between the Buckhead border and Midtown’s Piedmont Park is nearing a permit-filing stage. The full route is still undergoing planning and funding identification. The most complex part of the route is in Buckhead between the Armour and MARTA station areas, as it has to navigate a labyrinth consisting of commercial, industrial and residential uses; highway bridges and ramps; Peachtree Creek; and MARTA and Norfolk Southern rail lines. ABI worked through several alternative routes in 18 months of

public meetings before announcing a final route in May. Over 30 minutes into the Dec. 8 meeting, which led with construction updates about the interim trail, ABI revealed Norfolk Southern’s objection to the trail’s crossing of its tracks in the Armour area. Green indicated that was a surprise because Norfolk Southern’s real estate division had previously reviewed the route and had no “negative feedback.” The objection came from a different division of the company, he said. He said that means a planning delay for a project that already has a lengthy construction timeline, with a construction start expected no sooner than 2023 and no significant funding yet identified. An ABI spokesperson later said that the organization learned of Norfolk Southern’s objection in July. ABI’s written statement did not answer why the public was not immediately informed, instead describing the Dec. 8 meeting and saying, “It was not enough content to warrant a stand-alone meeting.” DeGraff indicated that ABI should not have been surprised by further Norfolk Southern review following their “early, preliminary discussions.” “At the time, we asked to see more detailed plans before giving our formal opinion,” said DeGraff. “We did not get those more detailed plans prior to ABI’s release of their proposed alignment. Based on what we saw, we recognized several problems with the proposed location, making that location as not feasible.” DeGraff and ABI said further planning discussion will happen. A preliminary engineering agreement is in the works to frame that process, ABI said. “We certainly are committed to being responsible corporate neighbors, and support projects like the BeltLine,” said DeGraff. “However, we must ensure the safety of the public and our employees regarding the railroad tracks, and avoid potential interruptions for our customers. We look forward to continuing the conversation and finding an agreeable solution.” ABI says it will hold further public meetings about the new route. Asked about any other pending reviews of infrastructure that might also significantly change the route, ABI said only, “We continue to closely vet our variant alignments.” For more about the Northeast Trail project, see ABI’s website at beltline.org. BH

Commentary | 7

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Around Town

Joe Earle is editorat-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@ reporternewspapers.net

Fighting a deadline in pursuit of an Eagle

Avery Maxwell knew from the start that she wouldn’t have time to spare. She was in a race with the calendar. There would be lots to do, and, in the beginning, she figured she’d have only about two years to do it. She had to wrap up everything before she turned 18. Her 18th arrives next month, on Valentine’s Day. “It’s so close, yet so hard,” the Dunwoody High School senior said recently, “because there was so much work to do and so little time to do it.” Before she started in 2019, she charted what she had to do on an online task board. She figured out her deadlines along the way and determined she could just make it in time. So, she set to work. This month, Avery is scheduled to wrap up her race to become one of the first girls in the country to be awarded an Eagle Scout rank by the Boy Scouts. Yes, you read that right. Boy Scouts. If all goes as planned, Avery will join the inaugural flight of girl Eagles. In February of 2019, the Boy Scouts of America changed. The organization, renamed Scouts BSA, for the first time allowed girls to join. That meant girls, in girls-only troops, could earn BSA merit badges, go camping as BSA scouts, and earn the BSA’s highest rank, the Eagle Scout. Avery wanted in. Her two older brothers had been Boy Scouts and had reached Eagle rank, and she wanted to do the same. She had tried Girl Scouts for several years when she was younger, but quit, she said, after deciding that program wasn’t for her. Continued on page 8 ROBERT MAXWELL

Avery Maxwell works on the observation platform she planned and built at the Dunwoody Nature Center to earn her Eagle rank through Scouts BSA.


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Fighting a deadline in pursuit of an Eagle Continued from page 7 She wanted more camping and outdoor activities. Her dad, Robert Maxwell, said that when the Boy Scouts first announced plans to allow girls to join, “she made a beeline for me and said, ‘Dad, I’m joining.’” The Scouts BSA program did offer her the chance to get out into the wild. She took part in an eight-day canoe trip near the U.S.-Canada border in 2019, she said. She planned on hiking this past summer at the Boy Scout’s Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, but that trip was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, her main goal remained earning that Eagle rank. Only a small fraction of the boys (and now girls) who start out in

scouting reach that rank, she said, “and I wanted to be part of that 5 percent.” Why? “It means you can work for a long period of time and actually put your mind to doing something that big,” she said. In September, Scouts BSA announced that all the girls across the country awarded Eagle rank by Feb. 8, 2021, would be considered part of the inaugural group of girl Eagles and their awards would note that fact. That appeals to Avery. “Having that on your resume…,” she said, “saying, ‘I’m in the first group of [girl] Eagle Scouts,’ that will be amazing.” To make it in time, her father said, she needs to wrap up her project and application so it can be approved by the middle of this month, her dad said. “I will make

it,” Avery said. “I just need to get the paperwork done.” What do her brothers think of her becoming an Eagle Scout? “They think it’s really cool that I was able to join them, especially in the time I had. They took their own sweet time about it. They got [something like] six or seven years [to finish]. I had two.” And the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things at times, making it difficult to do things she needed to do to collect some of the ranks and badges she needed. Still, there were only a couple of time when she questioned whether she could finish. For her Eagle Project, she decided to build a pavilion at the Dunwoody Nature Center where visitors can observe a working beehive. She organized construction of the structure and raised

money through a Go Fund Me page to pay for it. Any excess contributions, she said, will go the nature center. In December, she and her crew of volunteers (including, her dad said, both her brothers and her boyfriend) were finishing up the project, the last thing on her list before submitting her claim on Eagle rank for review. What did she have to say now that the end of her two-year Eagle pursuit was so near? She thought about that a moment. “It’s been a lot of hard work …,” she said. “It’s crazy… Wow.” Then she was off to spend part of her weekend writing emails to solicit more contributions for her project. Her deadline loomed. She had things yet to do and the days were growing short.

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If you have recently visited the West Paces Ferry Shopping Center, you’ll notice a “city block of Paris” developing across the street at 3200 Howell Mill Road. The gated Parisian-inspired senior living community, Corso Atlanta, is not only reshaping how senior living looks but how we think about the senior experience. Transforming senior living from a need into a want has been Founder and CEO Tim Gary’s passion for over two decades. Corso Atlanta’s parent company, Galerie Living, began with a single community in Commerce, Ga., in 1996. Since then, Galerie Living continues to lead the senior living industry through award-winning community concepts, expert management, and most uniquely, through creating unexpected happiness. “Whether you’re 8 or 80, happiness matters,” Gary said. “We define happiness as a feeling of belonging, purpose, comfort, independence and security. It’s in the moments shared around the family dinner table or running into an old friend while getting coffee. Adding chandeliers and Olympic-sized pools will change someone’s surroundings. But finding ways to add connection and joy into an everyday moment – that changes someone’s life.” Galerie Living’s in-house design, operations, and technology teams have worked to build moments of “unexpected happiness” throughout Corso’s 500,000 square feet of residential and common space. The team recognizes the multifaceted approach

between infrastructure, programming and technology as critical to building dynamic communities. “Operations, technology and design must work together to create the sophisticated product seniors are looking for in today’s market.” Chief Operating Officer Kari Samuelson explained. “What sets Corso apart is that the entire campus is engineered to be both beautiful and functional.” This balance of form and function is largely based on human-scale design principles. Human-scale architecture focuses on creating people-centered environments that foster positive interaction and connection. Corso’s human-led architecture and programming are informed by decades of developing, owning and operating communities for seniors. The minds behind Corso understand that the way people interact with spaces often shifts with age. A family home that was once a place of comfort can slowly become a burden. Stairs, heavy doors and long driveways that once added character to a home can become cumbersome to everyday life, leaving many seniors feeling overwhelmed. Senior Living Consultant Kim Linder has helped many seniors overcome the fear that downsizing their home means downsizing their quality of life. “When I’m working with seniors planning for their next home, I ask them to consider two questions: ‘Does this add value to my life?’ and ‘What do I want my life to look like now and when I need care?’ Searching for a senior living community requires different considerations than searching for a typical home. It’s less about square footage and more about the services, experiences and relationships improving your everyday life.” Linder emphasized the importance of planning for potential care needs when choosing a senior community. Needs can arise unexpectedly, resulting in seniors and families scrambling rather than carefully weighing all the options. Planning ahead and asking the right questions provides peace of mind, added control and a smoother transition. For active seniors seeking a vibrant social scene, it’s easy to focus on the services and amenities offered to independent living residents without considering how offerings may shift should care needs arise. More traditional communities may require you to

move into a separate building to receive assisted living services or you may have to hire your own caregiver from an outside agency. These are just a few of the questions to ask when choosing your next home. Corso’s “no-move” care model is especially appealing to those who prefer to plan ahead. Residents of independent living can receive assisted living services without moving to a new residence. While many future residents do not currently need care, it provides peace of mind knowing Corso’s in-house nurses and care staff are there if you need them. Knowing your next-door neighbors will be your neighbors for years to come builds strong ties that are essential to overall happiness. The same commitment to providing seniors with peace of mind, flexibility and control applies to Corso’s leasing model. Unlike more traditional continuum of care communities, there are no large buy-ins or invasive financial assessments. Residents of Corso are in full control over their financial and personal decisions. Corso has to earn the trust of residents and families daily because it is their choice to call Corso Atlanta home. The community is now pre-leasing city homes, independent living, assisted living and memory care homes. City homes are distinguished by their private front door entrances and patios overlooking Corso’s vibrant courtyards. In addition to having their own private exterior entrances with a second entrance to the main building, city homes offer refined architectural details such as rounded corners, coffered ceilings, elevated trim work, and top-line appliances, including hidden Sub-Zero refrigerators. The community offers over 45 floorplans including specialty unit styles with added design details. All residents of city homes, independent living, and assisted living have full access to a wide range of destinations, including a formal dining venue, wine and cheese tasting room, bistro, on-site florist, full-service salon and spa, theater, heated pool and more. Each destination is thoughtfully designed to create “familiarity with the past while giving the ability to experience beauty on a dayto-day basis.” Corso also provides unparalleled concierge services such as black car transportation, valet, pool-side service, 24/7 security, and additional services such as private dining in the teahouse, floral arrangement delivery and spa services. Every amenity and service has been intentionally included to make Corso Atlanta a place residents and guests look forward to enjoying together.

To learn more about Corso Atlanta, please visit corsoatlanta.com or call 404-891-9190. You can also visit their new Leasing Center location at 3303 Howell Mill Road. Corso’s team of senior living consultants are available Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday by appointment.


Commentary | 9

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Boxing is a knockout exercise for people with Parkinson’s

An estimated 1 million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease, with 60,000 new diagnoses every year, 13,000 of them here in Atlanta. Many famous people have PD, including actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) at age 29. So common is PD that most of us have known someone with it. I watched it destroy my former father-in-law -- who before PD was a healthy, confident small-business owner -- physically, mentally and emotionally. It also wreaked havoc on his brokenhearted wife,is awho regretfully sent him a nursing home when she Carol Niemi marketing consultant who lives on theto Dunwoodycould no longer help him getSprings out of chair. Sandy lineaand writes about people whose lives inspire Contact at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. That was 20 years ago. others. There washer and still is no cure for Parkinson’s, but if my fatherin-law were alive today, he would have the hope of slowing the progression of his disease. That hope is boxing. And one of the leaders in the Parkinson’s boxing movement, Boxing for Parkinson’s, is headquartered in Sandy Springs. An all-volunteer organization sponsored by the nonprofit Livramento Delgado Boxing Foundation (LDBF), it moved in September to its own 4,700-square-foot, state-of-the-art wellness center and is flourishing in the midst of one of the worst years any of us can remember. Recently, LDBF Chairman Denise Formisano, who has not only PD but also multiple sclerosis, invited me to attend a boxing class with my contact Ellen Bookman, the LDBF communications director. But why boxing? Because it naturally incorporates elements that can alleviate PD symptoms: footwork, balance, agility, movement in all planes, hand-eye coordination, Continued on page 10


Chairman Denise Formisano and Director of Operations Tom Jeffrey of the Livramento Delgado Boxing Foundation pose among the bags at the Sandy Springs boxing gym.

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Boxing is a knockout exercise for people with Parkinson’s Continued from page 9 strength, endurance, flexibility, posture, breathing, cognition, aerobic conditioning and camaraderie. Upon my arrival, Tom Jeffrey, Denise’s husband and LDBF’s operations director, took my temperature and squirted sanitizer into my hands. He then fitted me with sanitized hand wraps over which he placed boxing gloves. One side of the room was lined with rows of hanging punching bags, which we vigorously attacked after a warm-up that included jumping jacks. The full-time volunteer instructor, a former Air Force boxing instructor now working on a Ph.D. in ancient history, began calling out patterns of numbers and random dates. The numbers represented different boxing punches. If the instructor called

out 1-2-4-3, the students had to know they meant jab, cross, rear hook and lead hook in that order and be able to repeat the pattern rapidly until the next sequence. If that sounds easy, try not only instantaneously remembering what each number represents but also repeating the punches in sequence while jumping around. I’m a gym rat, but this class challenged me physically and mentally. And the dates the instructor called out along with the punch numbers? They were all from ancient history, and the students had to be able to repeat them at the end of each sequence. They were then told why the date was significant. A boxing workout and ancient history lesson all in one class! According to the Parkinson’s Outcome Project, the largest ever clinical study of Parkinson’s disease with more than

13,000 participants in five countries, exercise helps improve not only motor skills but also mood, depression and anxiety, all of which can affect people with PD more than motor impairments. The study also found that the sooner after a diagnosis people begin exercising, the more they can slow the decline in their quality of life. Denise says she was lucky because her diagnosing doctor stressed the importance of exercise and she started exercising immediately. She was so impressed with the results that she gave up her fulltime career in fashion design to become the full-time volunteer chair of LDBF. Ellen Bookman, the LDBF communications director, wasn’t so lucky. “I was diagnosed by a doctor who handed me a brochure and said, ‘Go boxing,’” said Ellen, who received her diagno-

sis of YOPD at the age of 52. “I came home, got on the internet and freaked out. Then I did nothing for a whole month but sit on the couch totally depressed.” When she finally looked into boxing and called Denise, everything changed. “Denise saved my life,” she said. Ellen currently writes a blog about living with YOPD, called “Loving & Living,” and plans to launch a YOPD mentoring program in April. Boxing for Parkinson’s offers a variety of classes, including yoga, six days a week. Its 200 members range in age from 38 to 92, with varying skills, including some who use wheelchairs. The address is 6667 Vernon Woods Drive, Suite A-16, in Sandy Springs. For information, call 404-747-3032 or go to boxingforparkinsons.org.

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Council again rejects tennis centers contract, seeks new way forward



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For the second time this year, the Atlanta City Council has rejected a recommended contract to change the management of the city’s five tennis centers. And this time, the decision is final, meaning the city will have to rebid the service or continue running the centers itself. The Dec. 8 vote was the latest chapter in a saga pitting longtime operator Universal Tennis Management against newcomer Agape Tennis Academy, which was the recommended bid-winner over a year ago. Much like a similar bid-killing vote in September, UTM complained publicly of an unfair process, and hundreds of residents — many fans of Buckhead’s Bitsy Grant and Chastain Park tennis centers — weighed in at such length the council was forced to delay its vote by a day. The big difference this time is that the recommended Agape contract really is dead. “It was ripped up and thrown in the trash can,” said City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit, whose District 8 includes the Buckhead tennis centers, in an interview. He said “the ball is now in the Parks [department’s] courts” on whether to rebid or continue the self-management it has conducted since UTM was contractually forced to depart in August. Agape and UTM agree that yet another round of contract bidding is likely. “We look forward to the opportunity to

partner with the city of Atlanta in 2021,” said Amy Pazahanick, Agape’s owner and CEO, in an email. “The most likely scenario is another RFP [request for proposals], which will be the fourth RFP for this particular issue,” said UTM partner Tim Noonan in a phone interview. But, Matzigkeit said, he and other councilmembers whose districts include tennis centers plan to find a way to select an operator without repeating the same battle. “Tennis is a game that we enjoy and share with people. This should not be a divisive issue for our city,” Matzigkeit said. While it remains unclear “what that will look like,” he said, the councilmembers will seek a resolution “that will unite the tennis community rather than divide the tennis community.” Atlanta is not the only local city where tennis center contract bids have become messy battles. Agape and UTM were both unhappy losers in a controversial bidding process in 2017 and 2018 for the Sandy Springs Tennis Center, which included similar appeals by bidders and award rejections from the Sandy Springs City Council. Part of the issue there was the difficulty of quantifying and judging some aspects of tennis operations. Matzkigkeit said the Atlanta situation is teaching a similar lesson. “It’s so personal. And it’s very hard, because what you’re really buying is a relationship with another person,” Matzkigkeit said of the tennis center contract process. “It’s the coaching aspect that I think people feel the most passion and connection to.” “We’re buying a service, a people service, and how do you measure that?” he continued. “Procurement wants to do everything extremely objective[ly], which is great, but a lot of that is subjective. … So this highlights the difficulty that we have in using a procurement process that is so rigid and quantified to buy something that is not.” Besides Bitsy Grant at 2125 Northside Drive and Chastain Park on Chastain Park Avenue, the tennis centers also include McGhee, Washington and Sharon E. Lester in Piedmont Park. Marietta-based UTM — known to many under its operational name Universal Tennis Academy — had operated the centers for over a decade. It operates several other tennis centers in the metro area, including in Brookhaven’s Blackburn Park and at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College campus in Dunwoody. Decatur-based Agape was recommended as the winner of a previous round of bidding last year, but UTM successfully appealed and won a contract extension through Aug. 11 of this year. In another round of bidding this year for a long-term contract, Agape again won the recommendation from the procurement department. Pazahanick said that Agape was disappointed in the vote, but “we are still proud that Agape has been selected twice to manage all of the city of Atlanta tennis centers. Our vision for tennis in Atlanta is to create more recreational opportunities and programming for everyone in the city to enjoy. We see tennis as a vehicle to do a lot of good in the city, serve the people, and as a way to build more bridges throughout the five diverse tennis centers and the city as a whole.”


Community | 13

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

River park visitors urged to clean up after their dogs with new bins BY BOB PEPALIS While dogs are welcome in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, their waste is not. The national park — which includes areas in Buckhead and Sandy Springs — has added waste bins and an educational campaign to get humans to clean up after their river-enjoying pets. Visitors who walk their dogs along the park’s trails have more places to “Bag and Bin It” with the installation of 37 new dog waste bins. The Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy and the National Park Service funded the 20 replacement dog waste bins and the additional 17 bins. All 15 park units now have bins and each bin has free waste bags. With more people spending time outdoors during the pandemic the volume and distribution of dog waste and bags left on the ground has risen, officials say. “The installation of 37 new dog waste bins will address the issue of dog waste and bags being left in the park by providing better access to proper disposal,” said Phillip Hodges, CNPC board president, in a press release. “What we need now is for dog owners to do their part.” Despite the previously existing dog waste bins, many visitors leave dog waste on the trails or other public areas. Some dog owners bag the waste, but just drop it along the trails instead of taking it to bins. A multi-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that dogs are a primary contributor of fecal contamination in the Chattahoochee River within the park. The Chattahoochee River provides 70% of the drinking water for metro Atlanta, park official say. High bacteria levels in the river can affect recreation such as kayaking, fishing and swimming, where people come in contact with the water, officials say. The CNPC asked the Buckhead-based Miami Ad School to help. A survey by student creative teams revealed that many

park visitors mistakenly believed dog waste was a good fertilizer, unaware that the fecal material contaminates the watershed and damages plants. They determined public education and more dog waste bins were needed. The winning campaign uses colorful illustrations reminiscent of retro-styled NPS park posters. It features the tag line “Lead the Pack — Bag and Bin It.” For information about the program or CNPC, the Chattahoochee River NRA’s official friends group, visit chatthoocheeparks.org or email info@chattahoocheeparks.org.

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One of the promotional artworks, created by Miami Ad School students, urging dog-walkers to clean up after their pets in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

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14 | Public Safety

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‘Security Plan’ unveiled as crime outrage grows Continued from page 1 ficers are actually having success at making arrests for a variety of crimes, such as car thefts, but have trouble making a dent in crime rates because the pandemic puts defendants in legal limbo after that. “We’re faced with an emboldened population of criminals who have not been held accountable for anything for the past five months,” Senzer said.

Buckhead Security Plan

Spearheaded by the Buckhead Coalition, the Buckhead Community Improvement District and the Atlanta Police Foundation, the “Buckhead Security Plan” was released Dec. 2. It can be read in full via the website of partner organization Livable Buckhead at livablebuckhead.com/safety. A key new feature is coordinating the neighborhood’s myriad private security patrols and enlarging an existing one in the central business district. “In the wake of a global pandemic, with shifting attitudes toward law enforcement and public decorum, Atlantans have seen many of those gains disappear in 2020,” the plan says. “As a consequence, the quality of life for those living in, working in and visiting popular Atlanta neighborhoods, such as Buckhead, has suffered. This plan represents Buckhead’s effort to do its part in promoting safety and security for all Atlantans while working to reclaim the quality of life that each resident has come to expect.”

It addresses concerns about shootings, street racing and other crimes on the rise in Buckhead and aims to aid the entire city. But its “zero-tolerance” language has a political side as well, reflecting local unhappiness with Bottoms’ very different approach to policing in the wake of this year’s Black Lives Matter protests that, in the most extreme form, revived separatist talk of Buckhead becoming its own city. While developed with input from her administration, the plan specifically calls on Bottoms to support the document and make a public anti-crime declaration. And it apparently alludes to the Black Lives Matter protests only negatively as reducing respect for the police and as “civil unrest” that could be a “threat” to the plan itself. The online version of the plan originally included a photo of a White woman holding a sign reading “Enough” over the caption “A call to action,” as if it were from an anti-crime protest; in fact, the image came from a stock collection of photos apparently taken at a Black Lives Matter protest in London about the police killing of George Floyd. The photo was deleted from the document after the Reporter informed Cookerly Public Relations, the firm promoting the plan, about its origins. Despite its public-policy nature and involvement of government agencies, the plan was developed in private virtual meetings to which the CID and the Coalition de-

nied the Reporter access. Jim Durrett, who heads both organizations, said there will be public input opportunities as various team members work to execute and possibly raise funds for the proposals in the plan. The general framework is a mix of public and private funding. The plan has two broad categories of initiatives, each with its own mission statement. “Deterrence & Enforcement” aims to “enforce a zero-tolerance policy when crimes and violations occur.” The “Policy & Procedural Change” categories says, “Certain existing policies and procedures are not producing effective security results and need to be re-examined and/or changed.” The effort behind the plan sprang directly from a suggestion by Robb Pitts, chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, for a neighborhood-wide private security patrol that was quickly dubbed “Buckhead Blue” after a similar Midtown program. The concept, albeit in a scaled-down version, remains the key new feature in the plan. It calls for funding and operating a “coordinated security patrol” in both the commercial and residential areas. That would include a “multi-car” patrol in the commercial area — which the CID is already ramping up — and a “coordinated communications platform” for the private patrols in residential neighborhoods.

Also on the enforcement list: ■ Expanding the “Operation Shield” security camera program. ■ Boosting advertising of the Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta reward program and offering special rewards for Buckhead crimes. ■ A “Clean Car” educational campaign for people to stop leaving vehicles unlocked or with valuables in them. Auto thefts and break-ins are among the biggest categories of local crime on the rise and, police repeatedly say, are easily preventable. ■ Investigating unspecified “technology” and piloting its use in Buckhead. The policy section is more varied. Among its many proposals are helping Atlanta Police Department officers with everything from gift cards to housing; assessing community policing programs; increasing local support for the APF’s youth and community center programs; aiding license and permit checks at nightlife spots; changing laws to increase sentences and target repeat offenders; strategizing on unlawful gun possession; and find a way to “crack down effectively” on party houses and “rowdy behavior at hotels.” That is also the section with the objective: “Ask Mayor Bottoms to support this plan and to publicly declare, especially for out-of-town visitors, that lawless behavior


Public Safety | 15

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net will not be tolerated in Atlanta.” The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a comment request about the plan and that specific request. The plan also lists “potential threats to our success.” A particular one to avoid is reduction in staffing at Buckhead’s Zone 2 APD precinct due to the plan’s own idea of private investment. Other concerns include the pandemic getting worse; “civil unrest”; budget pressures, tax base erosion “due to a business and residential exodus”; and “increasing brazenness” from party-goers and street racers.







The planning team

Besides the Coalition, the CID and the APF, the team that put together the plan included: Atlanta City Councilmembers Matzigkeit and Howard Shook; Pitts, the Fulton commission chair; Fulton Commissioner Lee Morris; Jon Keen, the city’s chief operating officer; APD; Livable Buckhead; the Buckhead Business Association; the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods; and the chairs of Neighborhood Planning Units A, B and C. That list did not include independent criminologists nor any police-reform advocates. Also not on that team was City Councilmember Jennifer Ide, whose District 6 includes Buckhead’s Lindbergh, Armour and Brookwood Hills areas, and who previously proposed withholding a large part of APD’s budget pending reform plans. Ide did not respond to a comment request about the plan. This year’s historic protests over racism and policing had a complicated reception in Buckhead. The first night of George Floyd protests in May spun off rioting and looting in the neighborhood. However, many residents and organizations soon issued statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and peaceful protests. The local mood shifted again in June with the APD killing of Rayshard Brooks. Bottoms quickly declared the killing unjustified and Police Chief Erika Shields, who is popular among many Buckhead residents, resigned. Some APD officers reportedly called out in protest; a child was shot to death near the site of Brooks’s killing where the city had allowed armed protests to remain; and tensions mounted. The CID was among the organizations that said it supported the Black Lives Matter movement and protesters who were “pushing for an end to racial injustice.” It pledged to start “listening to Black and Brown voices and others among us who have marginalized.” Asked how that stance squares with a “zero-tolerance” security plan developed without protester input, Durrett said in a written statement that the CID hasn’t changed its mind and that more seats at the table will be available later. And he noted the plan includes proposals like boosting youth and community center programs. “The CID’s statement of support for peaceful protests to end racial injustice still stands and doesn’t conflict with this plan to address crime in Buckhead,” he said. “The Buckhead Security Plan … is a starting point for increasing safety and security for everyone in Buckhead. … As the groups tasked with action areas begin their work, there will be additional opportunities to gather input from diverse voices across the city.”




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Publisher’s Note: New Year, New Beginnings Against the strong headwinds facing journalism (and newsfluential neighborhoods and cities. Our readers have come to papers in particular), the hyperlocal media space continues rely on our journalists to know what’s happening: from city to thrive, delivering the type of relevant journalcouncil meetings and local school issues to real esism that is essential to a functioning society and tate and where to find the newest “best burger.” a vibrant community. Providing consistent, reliBy producing high-quality products that reach able news and information while growing a viacoveted audiences, local advertisers have been ble print media business requires engaged local able to grow their businesses using simple but ownership. effective marketing plans to connect with their That’s why we are excited to announce the neighbors. It’s because of these engaged constittransition of Reporter Newspapers and its parent uencies that Reporter Newspapers has been able company, Springs Publishing, to a new, local ownto survive so many changes in the industry. The er, Keith Pepper. Keith is an Atlanta native who plan going forward is to lean into this market has deep roots in the community (he was born at leadership and continue to cover the stories that Northside and grew up in Dunwoody and Sandy are meaningful to our communities and to do it in Keith Pepper Springs) and will continue to operate the compafun, engaging and non-sensational ways. ny with a focus on being present in civic, corpoWe will keep it old-school with thorough rerate and cultural events across our coverage areas. search and clear, concise writing. At the same As regular readers of this paper know, Springs time, we will experiment with new ways to meet Publishing founder/owner Steve Levene built a our readers in places they may not expect. successful group of local papers by staying focused Continue to look for the Reporter in the mail on the communities they serve. The Springs famiand around town, but also please connect with ly includes the four Reporter Newspapers, plus Atus on social media. Spread the word: we’re all in lanta INtown and Atlanta Senior Life. These publithis together. While our names may be on the cations are produced by a committed and talented masthead, we want this to be your paper as well! staff of journalists, designers and sales executives. Please reach out with feedback or questions to For 14 years, the Reporter has been the go-to publisher@springspublishing.com. Steve Levene source for metro Atlanta’s most dynamic and in-

Commentary: Looking into the political crystal ball for 2021 Every year, the Reporter asks local leaders to predict the biggest local issues in the next 12 months. In 2020, no one saw a world-changing pandemic on the horizon. In what will hopefully be a safer and calmer 2021, here’s what they see in this year’s political crystal ball. For more of what each had to say, see ReporterNewspapers.net.

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Mayor Lynn Deutsch Dunwoody This time last year, I wrote this in the Reporter: “Dunwoody’s opportunities abound and 2020 promises to be an exciting year.” Of course, we all know what happened. And while the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the work we wanted to accomplish, it has not stalled it. We will continue to work on improving connectivity, whether it be infrastructure and pedestrian improvements or better internet connectivity. We have taken possession of the old Austin School property and have demolished the building. In 2021, we will work with our residents to develop a plan for the future use of the property. The new park at Waterford will have tennis courts and a pavilion available by the end of the

year. As the necessary restrictions related to COVID-19 are loosened, I look forward to seeing a full range of programming at Brook Run Park and our other parks.

Jim Durrett Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead Community Improvement District Without question, increasing the safety and security of the people who live in, work in and visit Buckhead is the number one priority for the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead CID in 2021. We’ll be working very closely with our partners to implement the Buckhead Security Plan and begin to restore public confidence in the safety of our community. In addition to the work on public safety, the Buckhead Coalition will focus on issues of homelessness. The Atlanta region is facing an intractable housing crisis. With the threat of evictions rising at the close of the year, the Coalition will work with government and community leaders to relieve the suffering of our neighbors experiencing homelessness and to preserve the desirability of Buckhead for life and commerce. The Buckhead CID will continue to

improve streets and sidewalks throughout the district and to help beautify and maintain our community’s public spaces.

Mayor Rusty Paul Sandy Springs Based on what we know today, job one as we enter the new year is ensuring that we effectively and efficiently deploy the COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available. It is a critical step to ameliorate the economic and health impacts of the virus. As COVID lessens, we want to relaunch a full line of concerts and performances at City Springs, with plans to announce the lineup this spring. In the coming year, we will continue pursuing our goal of securing control of our water system from the city of Atlanta. Renovation will begin on our newly acquired public safety complex, and we will start construction on two new fire stations in the central and northern portions of the city, with projects including training facilities for our first responders. Also among our top goals is to continue our efforts to make every Sandy Springs resident feel valued and included within the community at large. And finally, we stand ready to meet the unknown

represent the views of Reporter Newspapers or Springs Publishing.


Commentary | 17

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net challenges, keeping the safety and security of our residents the top priority.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick

Mayor John Ernst

One of the big issues we will face is the economic impact of the COVID virus on our state revenue and budget. We have less revenue to work with and more needs, especially in healthcare, including mental health. I have a bill being drafted to address patient safety concerns about sedation in the outpatient setting, and another to put some guidelines in place on sober housing facilities for people in recovery. I have other bills related to insurance reform of networks and prior authorization requirements, both of which can have a big impact on patient access to care. I work a lot on veterans issues and am excited that we will soon have a transition center in the metro area to assist people coming out of military service into the private sector. I am also working to update our laws on autonomous vehicles to accommodate new technologies.

Brookhaven At the top of the list is transit, and I’m looking forward to continuing to address long-term traffic concerns with the I-285 top end transit project. In addition to connecting the existing and future GDOT ventures and implementing transit options such as light rail and bus rapid transit, the top end mayors are also exploring a trail system along both sides of I-285, running east and west. Speaking of trails, design should be completed on Phase II of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, paving the way for right of way acquisition and then development in 2022. Other 2021 milestones will include the grand opening of our new public safety building and wrapping up most of the parks bond projects approved by the voters in 2018. In fall of 2021, our City Centre Master Plans will be completed, which will guide future developments in the area around the Brookhaven MARTA Station for years to come Finally, in 2021, I want to assist in getting the COVID vaccine to as many locations as possible so we can put an end to this long, global nightmare and get back to living life the way we used to. Brookhaven will celebrate with a party like no other, once COVID is eradicated and it is safe to do so.

J.P. Matzigkeit Atlanta City Council Safety remains my highest priority. I am excited about the recently announced Buckhead Security Plan, which I call “Buckhead Blue.” It’s a collaborative effort of the city, its police, business and citizens groups, and the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a coordinated and comprehensive safety plan for Buckhead. We must implement competitive and fair impact fees on development that adds demand on city services. It’s been a quarter-century since we raised the fees that are used for transportation infrastructure, public safety and parks. We also must pass a comprehensive tree ordinance to better preserve our tree canopy and simplify the requirements. The one we have is not strong enough and is outdated. I’m committed to preserving Atlanta’s precious tree canopy and keeping Atlanta’s moniker of a “city in the forest.”



State Rep. Matthew Wilson D-Brookhaven We have a lot to do in the legislature, including jump-starting our business climate, but most especially ensuring that Georgians who have fallen on hard times during this crisis are not only taken care of today, but have the same and even greater opportunities to succeed in the days to come. I’m also thankful to say that, thanks to the voters of DeKalb County, 2021 will bring us a fully reconstituted DeKalb Board of Ethics. But even as we have had success addressing local issues, what we don’t need to be doing is continuing to rehash the results of the 2020 election. I will strongly oppose any attempt to add more barriers to democratic participation in our elections based on conspiracy theories.

State Rep. Josh McLaurin D-Sandy Springs We are not out of the woods yet with the pandemic. With Congress failing to act, state and local governments must do everything we can to provide relief to residents. Now that we know state revenues for FY2021 will be higher than originally projected, I’m hopeful that we can increase our commitment as a state to ensuring basic

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necessities are met. One of the worst problems we face is continued housing insecurity. Amid the pandemic, we are also dealing with an artificial controversy surrounding one of our most fundamental rights: the right to vote. Although there is no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud, the majority party has signaled it is going to restrict or even eliminate noexcuse absentee voting this upcoming session. I will do everything I can to fight against efforts to restrict access to voting.

Moving into the 2021 legislative session, we must focus on issues that will impact our community and Georgia for years to come. We now must fight harder than ever to ensure all Georgians have access to voting. Our democracy only thrives when all eligible voters have access to the ballot. Also, every 10 years there is redistricting in our state due to the new Census. This process is where gerrymandering occurs. This redistricting will not only change the House district lines, but also for the state Senate and Congress. We must also focus on helping our communities and small businesses that are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last, but definitely not least, we must make sure our public schools are properly funded and we must make sure that children can return to school safely.

Jeff Rader DeKalb County Commission 2021 will be a challenge to all governments as we start seeing the longerterm impact of the pandemic on our economy and the public we serve. Locally, commercial tax assessments are vulnerable to appeal as property owners demonstrate that empty buildings are worth less than leased ones. Our public utilities will see higher delinquency rates due to strapped ratepayers. Public safety and social service demands will grow just as revenues erode. But it is darkest before the dawn, and I’m hopeful that governments at all levels will work to restore our commitment to the public interest and confirm the promise of our republic. I hope to continue to expand and improve greenspace, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and manage the growth in DeKalb that can change our communities for better or worse.

State Rep. Betsy Holland D-Buckhead The COVID-19 crisis will impact everything we do in the 2021 Session. Our top

priorities need to be strengthening our healthcare systems, protecting the health of Georgians, administering the vaccine, and forging a path to economic recovery. The legislature also faces the challenge of finding new streams of revenue to restore funding to the state budget without creating an undue burden on Georgians. After the COVID-19 recovery, the next hottest topic for the legislature this year will be reapportionment. With the results of the 2020 Census coming in, the state will need to redraw lines for state House and Senate seats as well as the U.S. Congressional districts. This has a huge impact on citizens for the next 10 years.

Lee Morris Fulton County Commission In 2021, Fulton County government, which has responsibility for public health, will continue to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our citizens and businesses. That will be the number one issue facing our neighborhoods, state, country and world. I will continue to work with the Buckhead Coalition, the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods and others, to do what we can to curb crime that makes citizens feel so unsafe. But my own personal crusade will remain property tax relief and fairness for homeowners in Fulton County, as it has since I took office. As the pandemic may cause the tax base to fall and as costs of government rise, there will be pressure to raise tax rates, imposing more burdens on homeowners.

Robb Pitts Chairman, Fulton County Commission Although the coronavirus halted some of my initiatives, I will rededicate my efforts to continue with the expansion of the Charlie Brown Airport, the building of a first-class animal control facility, and work to create a viable transportation plan for Roosevelt Highway and the South Fulton Parkway. I will also work to complete our Library Facility Master Plan and reopen senior centers and other government offices and facilities. I will also continue my efforts toward justice reform by working with the new sheriff and district attorney. And lastly, I will continue my efforts to develop a first-class medical facility in south Fulton. BH

Education | 19

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net


Tomorrow calls for a new kind of leader.

These students found ways to give back during a year of pandemic, politics and societal change BY COLLIN KELLEY

January is usually the month we present our 20 Under 20 honorees, recognizing the extraordinary work students do in the community and for nonprofits. But after the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, divisive politics, and a new reckoning over racial injustice, it didn’t seem right to hold a competition. Instead, we decided to speak with a group of young people who dedicated themselves to helping others and making a difference – even from behind their computer screens – during an unprecedented year.


tlanta International School sophomore Asanshay Gupta, 15, developed an app to help makeshift COVID-19 facilities in India during his summer internship with Allied Medical, which makes high flow oxygen therapy machines. More than 100 medical practitioners are now using Gupta’s app to monitor the oxygen supply and flow rates in their facilities. “My family is from India, so I was hearing many stories of how such a huge country was responding to the pandemic on a huge scale, by making makeshift hospitals in stadiums and other large venues. When I heard from my grandfather that the very people who are saving lives in these COVID-19 response centers are wasting valuable time doing tedious calculations that could be easily automated, I designed an app that allows them to easily perform these calculations. I am looking forward to visiting some of these hospitals to see my app being used and getting some realworld feedback, and also continuing some more projects such as my eye tracking power wheelchair for paraplegic patients. I want to see how I can use my interest in robotics to serve my local community.”

Asanshay Gupta


risto Rey Jesuit High School senior Marquel Jones, 18, has been a student leader and community volunteer for years, including creating the monthly Teen Talk Back sessions that have addressed everything from religious tolerance, to LGBTQ youth, to incarceration rates in the criminal justice system. As president of the DECA club, he helped raise $50,000 to renovate the school’s media center, a project put on hold due to the pandemic. Marquel shifted gears to assisted with the DECA Christmas Tree Giveaway to needy families as well as the 12 Disciples Food Box Drive to provide food security to Cristo Rey families during the pandemic. He has volunteered at Open Hand Atlanta and the Million Meal Pack. “The most valuable lesson I have learned as a volunteer this year is that if you want to see change, you have to be that change. I recognize sitting back and hoping that things get better does not actively improve anything. When I put action behind the ideas that I have, I am able to foster real change and that is heart-warming.”

Marquel Jones


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20 | Education

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learn more than just core academic subjects; they learn about themselves, who they are, and what role they want to play in making our world a better place.


abriel Howland, 17, is no stranger to giving back to not only the local community, but on a national and international scale. He traveled to Jamaica to help an impoverished elementary school start an organic garden, worked with Native American students on environmental issues in California as a “Bioneer,” founded a drone photography company, mentored at summer programs, and is a member of Dad’s Garage Theatre Company’s youth ensemble. During the pandemic, he coordinated directed, and edited a play for a summer camp via Zoom. Gabe also helped a prepare a pre-school for reopening in September and assisted in setting up outdoor classrooms at the New School where he’s a senior. When his grandmother told him that one of her neighbors needed help getting groceries and help around her home during the pandemic, Gabe volunteered his time. “I think that the pandemic and 2020, in general, made me realize what type of person I am. Hardship really can bring out the best and worst in people, and I hope that this year brought out the best. Honestly, helping other people is what helped me get through this year, especially when it was around gaining a semblance of normalcy.”

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ike many others stuck at home due to the pandemic, Leah Nuffer began baking. A lot. Over the summer, the 17-year-old Woodward Academy senior created Leah’s Bakeshop (leahsbakeshop. com) to benefit Families First, an organization that provides mental health support and educational services to those in need. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from the bakeshop are going to the charity. Leah also worked with Horizons Atlanta as a K-2 “Literacy Coach” where she tracked the students’ progress, observed classes, set individual goals, met with students individually, and became a cheerleader for their success. “The pandemic actually forced me to discover new ways of being involved in service that I didn’t even realize were possible. Not only did I begin to interact with communities virtually, but I also realized that some of the biggest help is done just through organizing programs and raising money. Volunteering for “behind the scenes” work of non-profit organizations is just as important as helping in the face-to-face interactions.”

Leah Nuffer


uring the COVID-19 shutdown, Maddalena Jones, 17, created a virtual dance program to keep children physically active and occupied at home while their parents continued to work. The 45-minute classes were also educational, and Maddalena created tutorial videos to post on social media to remind the children of the skills they had learned. A senior at Holy

Maddalena Jones

Continued on Page 22 BH

JANUARY 2021 â– www.ReporterNewspapers.net


Education | 21

22 | Education

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Continued from page 20 Spirit Preparatory School, Maddalena said 2020 helped her to have more patience and be grateful for the gifts we are given. “Teaching these online Zoom classes to younger children was certainly challenging at times for myself because I did not have much experience in this area and I was unsure if the children were really appreciating the classes half as much as the time and effort I was spending putting into them. However, I realized that if I was patient, then everything would work itself out the way it was meant to. Another thing I realized was how blessed I am to have been able to grow up with a wonderful gift such as dancing. Sharing that gift with younger children during the pandemic was really something special and it warmed my heart getting to see the smiles on the younger kids’ faces every time that I would teach a class.”


he pandemic couldn’t stop Zoe Glickman, 17, and her dedication to combating racism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. The North Atlanta High School senior developed the idea for a Black and Jewish student coalition and reached out to peers from both those groups as well as community leader to present the idea of a union. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and social distancing, Zoe’s efforts resulted in the inception of the first student organization of its kind at North Atlanta. “The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned as a volunteer this year, is to take time to educate yourself rather than sitting and waiting for someone else to do it. By educating yourself, I mean taking time to listen to stories of people whose lives are far different than your own, as well as learning the history behind why a community might be hurt.”

Zoe Glickman


li Rubenstein, 16, was feeling isolated and lonely during the pandemic, so he came up with an idea to create an online community for LGBTQ teens – the only one of its kind in Georgia. Early last summer, the Ben Franklin Academy sophomore launched “The Closet,” an online chat for teens age 14 to 18 held every Friday and Saturday night. The online chat events are moderated by an LGBTQ adult to ensure the space is safe, appropriate, and fun. The chats have been such a success, that Eli hopes to create a hybrid of virtual and in-person chats post-pandemic. “Starting ‘The Closet,’ I was able to virtually connect with kids from Georgia who had similar interests and it really gave me a sense of community. We watched movies, talked, and were able to share what we were all going through during a really difficult time. I’m really looking to connecting face to face with all the friends I’ve made online and expand our relationships.”

Eli Rubenstein


Some things have changed, but Springmont School still offers an authentic Montessori experience, where individualized learning inspires students to become creative, independent thinkers. Virtual Open House Jan. 24 Applications due Feb.15 Contact admission@springmont.com or call 404.252.3910 for more info or a virtual tour.


Kaili Stith

aili Stith, 12, organized a protest in Morningside against police brutality and racial injustice at the height of this summer’s demonstrations, rallying dozens of her classmates and neigbhors to participate. The Howard Middle School seventh grader also designed and commissioned the manufacturing of a line of shirts on Etsy called, Tee Shirts for Justice. The shirts sold out almost immediately and Kaili is using the proceeds to put together care packages for local women living in shelters. “I am looking forward to continuing protesting for human rights, but with a larger audience. I look forward to giving back in a way when I can interact with people face to face, that really just brightens up my day when I am able to see the impact I make.” BH

Education | 23

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

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harlie Kazazian, 16, received the Congressional Gold Medal this summer for his 400 hours of volunteer work with the nonprofits MedShare, Action Ministries, NFCC, Must Ministries. For the last few years, the Wesminster junior has worked with the nonprofit Mad Housers, which helps provide temporary shelter to the homeless by building individual wood huts. During the pandemic, Charlie downloaded the hut schematics and built a hut with his dad, which was then deployed to designated location in Atlanta. He said he wants to continue his volunteer work post-pandemic, including building more huts. “Serving in this way has really helped me get through the pandemic.”

Charlie Kazazian


cademe of the Oaks senior Lucy Sackin, 18, is a budding social justice advocate and ally to black and trans women. During the pandemic, Lucy sprang into action following the tragic death of Oluwatoyin Salau, which inspired her to do more by organizing a GoFundMe to fund self-defense items for Black and trans women in Atlanta. Her goal was to raise enough money to supply self-defense products to 50 women since Black and trans women are at a high risk of assault. She achieved her goal by using social media and via support from her classmates. “Seeing the lack of response from our own government made me realize just how important it is to work directly with my community. I realized that mutual aid is the backbone of any social movement. Protecting and supporting Black women and trans women is so important to me because I want to create more accepting and safe communities for everyone.”

Lucy Sackin

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JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net ary Baptist Church, he has volunteer in food drives every Saturday since pandemic began and assisted with organizing virus testing for the community. He participated in marches against racial injustice both in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. and created his own company, Empire Films, to make a documentary, “Through the Black Lens,” about the impact COVID-19 has had on families and schools. All the profits received from the documentary will go to helping

Elli Moraitakis


he pandemic fueled Elli Moraitakis, 17, to continue serving her community with a focus on what could be done rather than what could not. Her first opportunity arose when The Schenck School needed their alumni to help encourage students struggling with virtual learning. Understanding the complex issues that dyslexia present, Elli presented via Zoom a list of successful tactics she was employing during the lockdown. She and her family helped pack 300 “Bags of Love” for the homeless with toiletries, socks, underwear, water, non-perishables and a handwritten word of encouragement or Bible verse. The Greater Atlanta Christian School junior also volunteered to package and deliver more than 3,000 orders during the virtual Greek Festival at her church, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation. Over the holidays, she performed random acts of kindness to mark the 12 days of Christmas, including raking leaves, paying for someone’s food at the drive-thru, and buying blankets for the homeless. “Even in the hardest of days, there is always something good that can be done.”

John Edwards


ohn Edwards, 14, has devoted himself to helping others affected by the pandemic and racial injustice. At New Birth Mission-

communities and organizations such as Hosea Helps and the NAACP. A student at Dekalb Agricultural Technology and the Environment, said he was humbled by the people he met and things he witnessed during 2020. “The pandemic and 2020 in general, strengthened my resolve to give back to the community, specifically helping to cut down the shortage of food resources and every-

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26 | Education

No one prepares a child for school like Kenan.

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Girls on the Run

Nonprofit keeps girls active and healthy despite pandemic challenges BY CLARE S. RICHIE Girls’ confidence drops about twice as much as boys’ during adolescence and now COVID-19 has dramatically increased the number of teen girls reporting loneliness and isolation. Thankfully, Girls on the Run of Atlanta


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bras and snacks. We’re about breaking down barriers to get girls committed to activity and connected with friends no matter their zip code, family situation, race or ethnicity.” Each session is led by trained volunteer coaches who use physical activity

Serving children age three through Sixth Grade, Trinity School is Atlanta’s only private elementary-only school.

interspersed with dynamic discussions to guide and mentor the girls. “We talk about anything and everything. How to be a good friend. Who we surround ourselves with. Our emotions are very important to us,” GOTR Atlan-

Begin your child’s journey today!

ta Board Member sand former coach


Kathryn Gilbert said. The program attracts girls drawn to running and others drawn to the friendships and conversations about processing their emotions. In response to the question, what would you tell your friends who weren’t in GOTR Atlanta, girls answered: “It’s

4301 Northside Parkway NW, Atlanta

fun, it teaches you ways to calm down

January 29

and interact with other girls. It’s also


and reach a goal” a sixth grader said.

a good way to get some extra exercise “It’s supportive and helps teach you how to believe in yourself and be a better person,” a fifth grader responded.

Education | 27

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net “My favorite thing is Interacting with my teammates because I never want to be lonely,” a third grader shared. COVID-19 did have an impact. The nonprofit typically fields 100 teams in the fall, 140 in the spring. This fall, only 42 teams participated, with only two teams meeting in person. But through Zoom conversations and exercises like

Discover Marist Parent Information Sessions

lunges and jumping jacks at home, the girls pressed on. The other silver lining was that girls from schools or com-

Tuesday mornings via Zoom

munities that didn’t offer GOTR Atlanta joined eight open teams. The virtual format allowed for girls from Duluth, Mableton, and South Fulton to participate on the same team. “For being completely virtual and just about all strangers, our girls did a phenomenal job becoming a team,” a coach shared. “They supported each other and really opened up, sharing personal anecdotes and details. It was amazing to watch and be part of.” And at the end of fall season, the girls still came together for a celebratory virtual rae, “5K Your Way,” which recognized that not all girls had the

You want a school that’s the right fit. We do too. Serving grades 7–12, Marist School provides an education where achievement exists within a spirit of humility and generosity. Students are challenged by an extensive college-preparatory curriculum and an array of extracurricular activities to prepare them to be compassionate and confident leaders.

Application Deadline: January 25

same access to a safe place to run.

JANUARY 5, 12, 19

War Eagle Walking Tours

Varying weekday afternoons on campus JANUARY 4, 27, FEBRUARY 1

Open Forum Fridays

Q&A with the Admissions Team via Zoom JANUARY 8, 15, 22



“We mailed and shared via email

An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers

– a bingo card of activities that they could do at home. We had live workouts, dance parties and fun activities on our social media channels. Girls still


got their bibs, their medals and finisher t-shirt. We had girls on bikes, on rollerblades, running laps around buildings and dancing in their living rooms. It was neat to see how they put an exclamation point on the end of the season,” Rolfes said. Registration is open for the spring season, which begins on Feb. 15. “We are trying to identify places where we can have practice – parks, churches or any public building – and implement protocols of masks and social distancing. We are hoping to have half of the teams meet in-person, half virtual. There is definitely going to be something for everyone – even if GOTR hasn’t been in your community before,”

kindness friendships uniqueness possibilities milestones growing up n

2-year-olds through 8th grade

As the program builds back its num-


Personalized attention and instruction

ber of teams, volunteers are needed to


Unique opportunities to pursue passions

start a new site, become a coach, or sup-


Strong spiritual formation

Rolfes said.



ON-CAMPUS PREVIEW EVENTS EARLY CHILDHOOD Saturday, Jan. 23 | 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. ELEMENTARY & MIDDLE Sunday, Jan. 24 | 1 - 4 p.m.

port the staff. “If someone feels called to join us, we can certainly use them,” Gilbert said. For more information, visit girlsontherunatlanta.org.


Pre-register at stmartinschool.org

28 | Education

Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News

A Q&A with advocacy groups about APS’s in-person return BY JOHN RUCH The public schools systems in Atlanta and DeKalb County are tentatively set to return to optional in-person classes in January, depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, after months of advocacy by parents, teachers and staff. Everyone agrees that in-person classes should resume, but when and how remains controversial. In Atlanta, a group called We Demand Safety APS has advocated for better safeguards before an in-person return. Another called Committee for APS Progress has advocated for an immediate in-person option. The Reporter asked those

groups for their opinions about the return plan. The answers, which were edited for length and clarity, were provided by David Hayes, a Buckhead resident and chairman of Committee for APS Progress, and the steering committee of We Demand Safety APS: Markesha Daniel, Canek Fuentes Hernandez, Allison Glass, Laura LaHiff, Andy McIntyre, Jennifer Rogers-Givens, Sara Totonchi, Elizabeth Wickland, Sara Zeigler and Robin Deutsch Edwards. Now that APS has set tentative in-person return dates, how much does that satisfy your group’s concerns?


Holy Spirit Prep’s 21st-century classical approach combines the latest in academic excellence with authentic Catholic teachings that enrich students’ hearts, minds and souls.

Committee for APS Progress: APS families have been shut out of schools for over 270 days and the option to return to face-to-face learning could not come soon enough. We were sitting in a similar situation in October, when the superintendent and Board of Education pulled the plug on that reopening plan and kept our schools closed to our children. We are cautiously optimistic, but have no faith in the superintendent or board that they will follow through with the current plan. We will believe when we see it.

We are fighting for the parents, students, teachers and staff who simply want the option to return to face-to-face learning. One size does not fit all, and it doesn’t have to. The ramifications of this extended period of school closure will be felt for years to come.

We Demand Safety APS: The entire APS community would like to return to face-to-face learning; however, it is essential that it be done in a way that prioritizes equity, safety and health for staff, students and their families. While we understand that there is tremendous pressure to reopen schools, we want to be sure this is done in an equitable manner that centers the needs and concerns of the most vulnerable among us. Based on what was shared in the APS community Town Hall on Dec. 3, we appreciate that APS is prioritizing and funding upgrades to HVAC systems for all schools, developing a COVID-19 testing plan, and identifying a capacity cap for all schools of 60%. However, it is critical that efforts be made to improve transparency and communication.

Committee for APS Progress: Our first priority is to give parents, students, teachers and staff the option to make their own personal decision on returning to face-to-face learning. This can be done safely by following the CDC guidelines. Right now there is no option. There will be COVID-19 cases in schools once they reopen. We fully expect there to be periods of quarantine and shortterm closures. This is why a mitigation and isolation plan is vital. Volumes of recent public health research and studies tell us school is actually the safest for children during the pandemic and that face-to-face learning actually reduces overall community spread.

What is the most urgent concern that motivates your advocacy? We Demand Safety APS: We would like the district and individual schools to be transparent about their aspirations for how in-person learning will be conducted versus what it will actually look like in schools. And in the push to return to in-person instruction, the most urgent concern should be the safety and needs of APS staff to ensure a successful learning environment for students. Voices and expertise of APS staff should be solicited and amplified, affirming success and innovation around virtual teaching and learning -- and the expertise should be shared across the entire district so all schools can benefit and implement the safest and best educational models for learning in this unprecedented time.

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Committee for APS Progress: We have seen a dramatic loss of learning and development in students at all levels from this extended period of school closures. Despite the hard work of APS teachers and staff, virtual learning is no substitute for face-to-face learning.

Major concerns about in-person return timing are public health and quality of education. What are your points of agreement with those concerns and where do you differ with other advocates?

We Demand Safety APS: We recognize that there are children who would benefit greatly from face-toface instruction, especially children with disabilities and special learning needs, our youngest learners, those without adult supervision at home, those with internet connectivity issues, and those struggling with mental health concerns. We remain steadfast in our belief that the entire APS community would like to return to face-to-face learning; however, it is essential that it be done in a way that prioritizes equity, safety and health for staff, students and their families. Recent studies suggest that while schools do not drive the spread of COVID-19 in communities where schools have been opened, they do mirror the rates of transmission of COVID-19 within their communities. We urge APS to engage state governmental and public health leadership in Georgia to prioritize supporting schools with additional resources to implement testing and contact tracing strategies. What has your group learned from the Fulton County School System, which has returned to in-person classes but also had to close many schools? We Demand Safety APS: One of the major lessons we have Continued on Page 30 BH

Education | 29

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net


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30 | Education

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Continued from page 28 learned from school reopening efforts across the U.S. is that schools need to have a detailed mitigation strategy for ensuring the COVID transmissions can be prevented and detected rapidly. When schools do not put multiple mitigation strategies in place, such as 100% mask wearing, testing, and creative scheduling (e.g., cohorts, alternating or staggered schedules) to provide social distancing, COVID can spread -- putting too many people at risk. Committee for APS Progress: Obviously, COVID-19 cases are going to be a fixture of the next several months. The key is mitigation and isolation. What Fulton County and countless other school districts locally and nationally have shown us is 1) face-to-face learning can happen during this pandemic, and 2) the importance of a plan for mitigation at the school level. APS has not shown such a plan. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Unfortunately, there will COVID-19 cases when APS schools reopen; this will be true despite the diligent work and planning of the individual school principals. However, all the research shows that open schools don’t contribute to community spread. Instead, research has shown us that open schools are actually linked to reduction of community spread. Once the pandemic ends, are there any long-term changes to education policies or practices you would see coming from your advocacy? Committee for APS Progress: Once schools reopen, the damage done to our students through school closure needs to be addressed and a plan for making up for this loss needs to be implemented. In the long term, we will be focused on electing an APS board that won’t allow politics to drive its decisions, that will hold the superintendent accountable, and that will make educating students its top priority. We Demand Safety APS: We hope that the voices and expertise of APS staff and the APS community are solicited and amplified beyond the current crisis. APS staff has shown great resilience and creativity during the pandemic and success stories should be acknowledged and recognized. This pandemic has reminded all of us of the essential roles that teachers and schools play in our society -- and how under-resourced schools are. It is time for us to consistently reward dedicated education professionals and ensure that our state resources prioritize funding for all public schools and teachers so that all students in Georgia can benefit equally.


Classifieds | 31

JANUARY 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net


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