SEPTEMBER 2020 • VOL. 14 — NO. 9
Sandy Springs Reporter
EDUCATION GUIDE FALL 2020
►VIRTUAL SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS
►Q&As WITH LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS
City shares concepts to redevelop North End shopping center WORTH KNOWING
Theater groups aim to stage pandemic comebacks P18 AROUND TOWN
Georgia Audubon spreads its wings P19 COMMENTARY
Basic needs of teachers and students must be met P16
CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS
BY BOB PEPALIS
The potential for a scenic vista can be seen in this existing site plan for the Northridge shopping center, along with its unusual shape and configuration that doesn’t front on Roswell Road. Access to both Roswell and Northridge roads is shown.
Episcopal school buys shuttered church BY BOB PEPALIS
The Sandy Springs Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30327, 30328, 30342 and 30350 For information: email@example.com
Brookhaven’s St. Martin’s Episcopal School has purchased the shuttered Highpoint Episcopal Community Church and is seeking to use it as a school or daycare. The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled plans to continue the process in trying to get a special use permit for the new use of
the property at 4945 High Point Road. “In the short term, it falls in line with what that space has been used for in the past. It served the community, it served young families on and off. And we are going to continue to do the same,” said Luis Ottley, head of school for St. Martin’s. See EPISCOPAL on page 20
Sandy Springs’ Northridge Shopping Center could be remade as a mixed-use community ranging from 58 to 718 housing units and buildings three to 10 stories tall, according to redevelopment concepts presented by consultants in a virtual meeting on Aug. 13. The presentation to the North End Revitalization Advisory Committee was the first of four such concepts for shopping centers along Roswell Road commissioned in December by the city as part of its quest to spark redevelopment of the North End. Stated goals for the North End include: ■ Ensure a variety of housing options to accommodate all types of residences. See CITY on page 21
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City adopts face mask mandate ordinance, requires signs in businesses BY BOB PEPALIS
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The City Council adopted a face mask mandate during a special meeting held virtually on Aug. 20 to replace Mayor Rusty Paul’s similar executive order. Face masks must be worn in all public spaces and public buildings under the ordinance. Private businesses are not required to follow that order, but they can decide to comply with it. That would enable them to call the Sandy Springs Police Department if a customer refused to wear a mask or leave the business. Businesses that don’t wish to comply will have to post a clearly legible sign with letters 1 inch tall in Arial font at every public entrance that says: “This location does not require the use of masks or facial coverings upon this property.” Paul ran with Councilmember Andy Bauman’s suggestion that city staff print out posters and distribute them to businesses, even hiring people to do it. He also asked City Manager Andrea Surratt to work with the Public Works Department to deploy mobile message boards to urge mask use, and also using video screens at City Springs. “I know that there are some residents who will be frustrated by this, but I hope that they will take it seriously and understand the spirit in which it’s been approved,” Councilmember Chris Burnett said, “because we are all pulling together to work through this. This is good for our businesses, it’s good for our communities, most importantly, it’s best for the safety of our residents.” “I think it’s an important signal to the community of the seriousness of the pandemic,” Paul said. “Even though the good news is that over the last 14 days is the rate of infection in Sandy Springs has dropped almost 50%.” He said a coronavirus hot spot around Northwood Drive has cooled down, and warm spots around Abernathy Road also seem to have cooled a bit.
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Fulton sewer line project nears completion, takes trees
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Residents of Stonepark of Dunwoody and Parc at Dunwoody Apartments wondering if a Fulton County sewer line project will ever get finished and what the buffer area between the developments will look like have to wait more than a month to see its completion. And that’s if the weather cooperates. The two properties are off Colquitt Road south of Pitts Road. “Right now, nothing has been done in about three weeks, so the mess just sits gathering mud,” Olga Roos, who lives in the Stonepark of Dunwoody condo development, said on Aug. 21. “No one has told us when they will be finished.” She fears the work installing a sewer diversion line immediately behind her home may cause damages. In mid-July she said trees damaged during the clearing and access road construction appeared ready to fall on the condo units. She wants to know if having heavy equipment operating so close to her building – as close as two feet, she said – damaged its structure. “They need to inspect the building after it is done for damages caused by them,” she said. “Trees along the area they demolished are in dangerous condition, dying and bent… The trees could start falling any time since they disrupted the environment system.” Workers began clearing the easement to prepare for the sewer line installation the week of June 29, but Roos said homeowners in Stonepark of Dunwoody weren’t told what was going on until after the fact. An email from Community Management Associates, property manager for the community, on July 1 confirmed the work had begun, but it raised more questions. “We received no notice to a start date and had to clarify scope once the construction began,” the Stonepark of Dunwoody Board of Directors said, according to the email. The email said the Stonepark board negotiated a $65,000 payment for the easement. Of that amount, $10,000 will be used for replanting vegetation. If the property owner asked for an inspection in the easement agreement, it will be performed, said Simeon S. Solomero Jr., senior construction project manager for Fulton County Department of Public Works. Fulton Public Works Director David Clark said the 24-inch diameter sewer line installation is part of a six-mile project to transfer 10MGD (million gallons per day) of untreated wastewater from the Big Creek treatment plant in Roswell to a Cobb County plant. The project began in 2018 and the sewer line is expected to be installed by late September, depending on the weather. The $28 million project is designed to divert some flow away from the construction at the Big Creek plant for a $275 million expansion project, he said. The line also will serve as an emergency safety valve. The final route was selected after discussions with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the city of San-
dy Springs, Clark said. Roadways were used as much as possible. The route starts at Riverside Pump Station in Roswell and crosses the river heading west to Roswell Road, following it south to Dunwoody Place, south down it to Northridge Road and turning west to Colquitt Road. At Colquitt the pipeline route heads south past Pitts Road. The pipeline route next shifts southwest to follow the easements purchased from Stonepark of Dunwoody and Parc at Dunwoody Apartments. From there it follows the Georgia Power easement, passing under Roswell Road and following Morgan Falls Road past Steel Canyon Golf Course until it reaches the Morgan Falls Pump Station on the east side of the river. After crossing the river, it travels about two miles within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, along the river’s west side, until it connects to the existing Cobb County system. This section includes 1.2 miles of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area parkland in the Johnson Ferry unit. The National Park Service held its own public comment period on the project and created a website section on it at parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome. cfm?projectID=83791. Permitting issues that included the effects of COVID-19, easement requirements and additional requirements caused the contractor, John D. Stephens Inc., to demobilize its crew in that area for a couple of weeks and shift them to another area, Solomero said. Storms also delayed the project. No excavation had been done at Stonepark, though a ditch and swale already existed along the north side of the easement. Solomero said the contractor will perform geotechnical investigation (test drilling for rock) along the easement the week of Aug. 24 and in the following weeks. After that pipe installation will begin, which should take about four weeks, depending on the weather. Restoration, landscaping and planting grass will follow after pipelaying, pushing the project into at least mid-October before homeowners can expect work crews to be finished. Clark said trees won’t be replanted, but the easement area will be planted with grass and maintained. The Stonepark board said negotiations included getting fencing replaced also. The city determined for the 14,359 square feet of landmark tree canopy removed, Fulton County must provide 22 large canopy replacement trees for this project. Fulton County will provide 22 oak trees, the Public Works Department said via email. The city will direct project managers on where the replanting can occur. That replanting would not be on the same site due to the pipeline. Cobb County exempts utility projects from tree replacement. The amount of tree recompense within the National Park Services has yet to be determined. Roos said the first she heard about the project is when the subdivision’s property manager with CMA sent out an email stating the homeowners association had ne-
Community | 5
gotiated a payment of $65,000 for Fulton County for an easement in the buffer area. The HOA is the owner of common areas like the buffer area. “We have tried to be very fair to all of the property owners in the prices that we offered and settled upon,” Clark said. “There are a total of 14 property owners that we are buying (or bought) easements from. The final cost will be a little over $600,000 in all.” Large portions of the project run through existing easements for Georgia Power, GDOT and the city and would not require payments. The county and Georgia Power share use of easements, so those did not add costs to the project. The project required purchase of easements at these addresses: ■ 9755 Roberts Drive ■ North River Forest Court (Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area)
■ 7600, 7843, 7899, 0 and 8329 Roswell Road ■ 7500 Wildercliff Drive ■ Colquitt Road (Stonepark of Dunwoody Unit Owners Association) ■ 400 Northridge Parkway ■ 1067 Pitts Road, Parc at Dunwoody Apartments ■ 0 Morgan Road ■ 350 Northridge Drive ■ 295 Johnson Ferry Road SE, Marietta Homeowners with questions for the contractor about the project can contact Neil Loudermilk at 706-490-2400; Eric Malvin at 770-972-8000; or Solomero at 404-630-8639.
The new Fulton County sewer line easement comes close to the Stonepark at Dunwoody condominiums.
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City to demolish Fire Station 2, moves firefighters to temporary locations BY BOB PEPALIS The pending demolition of Fire Station No. 2 has firefighters relocating to a temporary station at Roswell Road and Mount Vernon Highway and to Fire Station No. 3 on Raider Drive. The City Council on June 16 approved spending $3.5 million in fiscal year 2021 to construct a new Fire Station No. 2 at its original location, which made the relocation necessary. The land purchased for the temporary station also is needed for an intersection improvement project. One crew and one engine will use the two structures at Roswell and Mount Vernon at a former Enterprise car rental site. The city last year approved paying $1.2 million for the property. The battalion chief and ladder company will work from Fire Station No. 3. Using the temporary locations will enable the Fire Department to maintain the normal coverage area, spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. The replacement of Fire Station No. 2 is part of the City Councilâ€™s fiscal year 2020 budget. The city hoped to have the new fire station completed by spring 2021, but has yet to put the project out to bid for a contractor, Kraun confirmed. The existing station opened in 1969 and had served the city of Atlanta and Fulton County before the city formed. Demolition work will begin this month at Fire Station No. 2 at Johnson Ferry Road and Sandy Springs Circle, according to a city news release. Hussey Gay Bell & DeYoung, the project architect, designed a two-story replacement fire station. It will include a decontamination area with a separate HVAC and airlock system. A training area and separate living areas for male and female firefighters also are part of the design. A ceremony to celebrate the demolition was another casualty to COVID-19 and health safety concerns, Kraun said in the release. Once the new Fire Station No. 2 has opened, the two structures at the Roswell Road and Mount Vernon Highway temporary location will get another use, Kraun said. The Ga. 400 construction includes the replacement of the Pitts Road bridge. During the replacement, Pitts Road will be closed to traffic. To continue Fire Department coverage of the area, the structures will be moved to a location in the north end of the city.
A single crew will use that location. Keeping the road open would require GDOT to buy four recently constructed houses. The city asked GDOT to not purchase the homes, which Kraun said the agency was happy to do as it saves a considerable amount of money.
CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS
Sandy Springs Fire Chief Keith Sanders checks out the living quarters at the temporary location at Roswell Road and Mount Vernon Highway for a Fire Station No. 2 crew and engine during demolition of the old fire station and construction of its replacement.
THERE IS STILL TIME TO
MAKE A DIFFERENCE! YOUR COMPLETED CENSUS IMPROVES OUR COMMUNITY It takes less than 10 minutes to do your part in helping improve your community. An accurate population count ensures that the right amount of federal funds will be allocated to support servies right here in Sandy Springs. These dollars are used to fund school programs, improvements to roads, sidewalks, and parks. Now more than ever, we need to keep our community strong and healthy. Do so by completing your 2020 Census today!
You can complete your census online, via telephone or you can request a paper copy if you prefer to mail in your answers by September 30. The census only asks nine questions that are easy to complete. Fill yours out today at spr.gs/census
Community | 7
Ga. 400 toll lanes report posted in virtual ‘open house’ BY JOHN RUCH firstname.lastname@example.org
Toll lanes proposed to be added to Ga. 400 between Sandy Springs and Forsyth County would have no major environmental impacts, according to documents presented by the Georgia Department of Transportation on a “virtual open house” website that is accepting public comments through Sept. 22. Among the details in the online presentation are a possible detour route during replacement of the Pitts Road bridge over Ga. 400 in Sandy Springs, and a slightly faster construction timeline than was last announced: a 2022 start and an opening in 2026. The toll lanes -- dubbed “express lanes” by GDOT -- are intended to be part of a
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future metro-wide system. Locally, the toll lanes would run along I-285 and Ga. 400. While the toll lanes eventually would be part of a unified, interconnected system,
NEW CONSTRUCTION COMING SOON
GDOT has divided them into subsections for planning and construction purposes. The “Ga. 400” project includes only the part of the highway from the North Springs MARTA Station northward; the southern piece of Ga. 400 in Perimeter Center is within the I-285 project because it involves a lot of connection-building with that highway. And the I-285 part of the toll lanes was itself broken up into multiple sections, including east, west and top end. The toll lane plans have drawn controversy for possible impacts on local traffic and for the need to take property. The Ga. 400 project will require about 45 homes in Sandy Springs and about five businesses, according to GDOT. GDOT says the toll
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lanes would speed up overall traffic by letting paying drivers go faster than those in the free lanes. In a new concept for GDOT, the Ga. 400 lanes and possibly the I-285 lanes would carry MARTA buses using new dedicated stations. The Ga. 400 project includes around 16 miles of toll lanes between the North Springs MARTA Station off Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and the McFarland Parkway area in Forsyth. It includes interchanges at the MARTA station and at Grimes Bridge
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Road, Tradewinds Parkway and Union Hill Road. A draft environmental impact report -- a document required by the federal and
state governments before major road projects can proceed -- says that the toll lanes would not exceed air quality standards for the metro Atlanta area, so further study is not needed. The report includes information about MARTA buses using the lanes, but specific environmental impacts of such buses are not addressed in the report. The project would include widening the highway bridge over the Chattahoochee River, which is federally protected and part of which is a national park. The National Park Service has recommended approval for the project, according to documents on the website, because there is no practical alternative, no long-term “adverse impacts,” and no net loss of wetlands. An area of wetlands would be lost, but GDOT would give money to NPS to buy more, the documents say. In terms of traffic noise, the draft report says, the route would receive an estimated 4.7 decibel increase over the current sound levels by 2046. Some spots would receive more impacts of 15 decibels or more, which would make them eligible to get noise barriers, the report says. GDOT’s online open house was scheduled to include a live question-and-answer session on Sept. 1, after the Reporter went to press. Meanwhile, the I-285 toll lane projects are on a separate timeline. GDOT earlier
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this year issued a response to public comments about those projects. The toll lanes projects are separate from the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction project that is currently under construction. That project, known as “Transform 285/400,” began in 2017 and is expected to wrap up late next year. However, the toll lanes would run through the interchange area and connect with it.
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HVAC systems are next battleground in the COVID-19 fight BY JOHN RUCH
Since April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have had HVAC
As America ventures into pandemic reopenings, some-
guidelines related to COVID-19, which
thing new is in the air along with the now classic hygiene
also refer to recommendations from
talk about hand-washing, social distancing and mask-wear-
ASHRAE, an international industry-stan-
ing. Anti-virus additions to air conditioning and heating
dards group headquartered in Brookhav-
systems are the next wave of the pandemic strategy as peo-
ple gather inside buildings where virus particles may float
Some of the recommendations are rel-
around for extended periods.
atively simple ventilation improvements,
From restaurants to art classrooms, MARTA offices to
like increasing the amount of outdoor air
schools, building managers are looking at tactics that range
by opening windows or boosting the ca-
from blowing in more fresh air to adding possibly virus-
pacity of an air-conditioning system. Ex-
scrubbing filters or COVID-killing ultraviolet lights. Like many social aspects of the pandemic, the HVAC battlefront is a case of COVID-19 adding momentum to pre-existing shifts in the way life and business work. HVAC companies already saw a future focus in cleaning indoor air, says
A REME HALO ionizing air purifier, like those St. Martin’s Episcopal School says it has installed, as seen on the website of manufacturer RGF Environmental Group.
Chris Marek, CEO of the AIR Company of Georgia, a Buckhead-based heating, air conditioning and refrigeration contractor. “I think that the industry trend is moving more towards proper indoor air quality and best practices,” said Marek, whose company has installed COVID-combatting additions to systems in a school and other facilities. “I think the broader conservation should be about improving the indoor air quality.”
tending the hours of operation of the HVAC system so that air is more diluted when occupants arrive is another strategy.
In higher-risk areas, the CDC has recommendations that are more like systems used by hospitals. The CDC says portable HEPA filters that can filter out tiny particles could be useful. The CDC also suggests considering virus-killing ultraviolet lights for installation in the ceiling to treat upward-flowing air. Another suggestion is internal airflow from “clean” to “less-clean” areas, meaning that occupied areas get fresh or filtered air, which is then directed to other parts of the building.
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Community | 9
Marek said still other forms of technology are available, such as ionizers that electronically charge air molecules so that viruses or pollutants will be attracted to them and thus are filtered out. In practice, the use of any or all of these techniques varies greatly by the type of building and HVAC system. Marek said there’s no “cookie-cutter” approach -- and no simple price tag, either. “You really have to take a bespoke approach to this,” Marek said. “You have to take a look at, what do they currently have, what’s the best practice around what they have, and meeting them where they are.” The CDC and ASHRAE say that all hygiene precautions should be used together against COVID-19. Like any given strategy, HVAC changes can only reduce the risk of catching the disease, not eliminate it completely. “...As a profession, we don’t guarantee or make any sort of overture that this is going to prevent anyone from getting sick. I think that’s really important that they understand that,” said Marek.
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Tactics of local businesses, institutions
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Several local businesses and institutions are already trying various HVAC tactics. Dunwoody’s Spruill Center for the Arts announced Aug. 17 that it had installed a “medical-grade filtration system” to clean the air in its classrooms. The H13 filters “remove 99.9% of air particles,” the center said in a press release. “We are committed to providing a safe space for our staff and students,” said Spruill CEO Alan Mothner in the release. “Implementing the air purification system is an added level of safety we felt was necessary.” Ray’s on the River, a cornerstone of Sandy Springs’ restaurant scene, installed ultraviolet lights in its air conditioning system all the way back in March as the pandemic began, according to owner Ray Schoenbaum. He told the Reporter in July that the move was made largely to give customers a sense of security. “That’s one of the things we did over and above that we didn’t have to do [under state safety rules]…,” said Schoenbaum. “We owe it to [customers] to do absolutely
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everything we can to make them feel comfortable.” MARTA announced Aug. 13 that its Board of Directors approved an $850,000 project to add ionizers to air conditioning systems in various offices, including the transit agency’s Buckhead headquarters. The “NeedlePoint Bi-Polar Ionization” system is made by a North Carolina company called Global Plasma Solutions. “These filters are one part of the safety protocol we’ve developed,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker in a press release. “Those employees who are able to continue productively working from home are encouraged to do so, but we want to ensure that anyone who must work in or visit our facilities remains healthy.” Air quality in schools has become a pressing issue as some have returned in-person -- and some around metro Atlanta quickly saw COVID-19 outbreaks. St. Martin’s Episcopal School, a private pre-K through 8th grade school in Brookhaven that has returned to in-person classes, installed ionization devices in its HVAC system, according to a pandemic preparation document on its website.
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The REME HALO product is made by a Florida company called RGF Environmental Group. Local public school districts were in different stages of consideration as they all launched with virtual-only classes. The school system in DeKalb and Fulton counties were starting with improved ventilation, while an Atlanta Public Schools spokesperson said, “We are reviewing all of our HVAC and ventilation options and protocols at this time.” “The Dekalb County School District is following recommendations from the CDC and ASHRAE to introduce more fresh air into our HVAC systems for students returning to our schools,” said a district spokesperson. “We will also be increasing the
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frequency of filter changes, preventative maintenance and system cleaning.” The Fulton County School System is also reviewing CDC and ASHRAE guidelines, according to spokesperson Shumuriel Ratliff. “We have adjusted our HVAC systems to extend hours of operation to dilute possible contaminates,” said Ratliff. “We are moving towards higher efficacy air filtration on all our HVAC systems. Ultraviolet (UV) air disinfection devices are being evaluated for their cost and effectiveness.”
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10 | Art & Entertainment
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Arts foundation to support artists, honor late Reporter writer Judith Schonbak BY JOHN RUCH firstname.lastname@example.org
An arts foundation is being created to honor Judith Schonbak, an arts writer for the Reporter and other outlets who died Aug. 2, and to support “historically marginalized communities and artists.” Her daughter McKenzie Wren is organizing the fund, with C4 Atlanta, a nonprofit that provides business services to the arts community, acting as the fiscal agent accepting initial donations. “We are setting up the Judith Schonbak memorial arts fund to expand arts access and support to historically
communities and artJudith Schonbak.
ists,” Wren wrote in an email announcing
the effort. She said Schonbak had always wanted to create such a fund, and that doing is in “honor of the work she did to expand and educate about the arts.” “I didn’t know Judith personally but C4 has a close relationship with McKenzie,” said C4 Atlanta Executive Director Jessyca Holland. “My heart is heavy for McKenzie as she mourns the passing of her mother. This fund continues the legacy of her mother’s contributions to art and provides comfort in a time that is very challenging for artists.” Donations to the arts foundation can be made on the C4 website at c4atlanta.org/ pay. Under the “I am making a payment for” list, donors can choose “Other” and write in “Judith Schonbak fund.” Schonbak was killed in a Chamblee crash that the Georgia State Patrol says was caused by the driver of a stolen vehicle. Schonbak revitalized the Reporter’s arts coverage in recent years as part of a long career in writing and the arts for which family, friends and colleagues are fondly remembering her. At Buckhead’s Atlanta Artists Center, Schonbak served on the board four times, including two terms as president, in 2005-2005 and 2013-2014. “She provided vision and leadership during two critical periods in AAC history as the organization faced both financial and leadership crises,” recalled the organization in a written statement. “She was a dynamic, charming and strong leader who gave of herself tirelessly and inspired all those who knew her. Her red hair and artsy dress made her instantly recognizable. She worked hard to know everyone’s name and naturally instilled enthusiasm for everything AAC.” Schonbak combined her interest in writing and the arts in work for many local arts publications. She wrote program guides at the Cobb Energy Center and volunteered as editor of the Georgia Watercolor Society for a number of years. She interviewed Renzo Piano, architect of the High Museum addition and other major arts institutions, and such celebrities as William Shatner and Carol Burnett. Schonbak joined the Reporter as a freelance writer in 2018, where she anchored a newly expanded arts section.
Community | 11
Georgia Tech chooses city for MARTA bus traffic signal experiment BY BOB PEPALIS Georgia Tech picked the city as one of its four Georgia Smart grant winners for its pilot project to create a transit signal priority system for MARTA bus service to cut transit time for riders. The city will collaborate with MARTA and the city of Dunwoody on the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge project. Georgia Tech researchers Michael Hunter and Kari Watkins will work with the project team, the university announced in a release on Aug. 6. The pilot project targets bus Route 5, which has high ridership between the Dunwoody MARTA Station and Buckhead’s Lindbergh Center MARTA Station via Hammond Drive and Roswell Road, said Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith. The project aims to cut how much time buses wait at red lights. That would reduce travel times for transit. The project’s goal is to allow transit buses to talk to the traffic signals, said Michael P. Hunter, a professor of Transportation Systems Engineering and Smart Cities at Georgia Tech. He and Kari Watkins will evaluate the performance of the project.
“We are excited to work with Georgia Tech and in collaboration with MARTA and the city of Dunwoody in exploring opportunities to maximize current software to generate more efficiencies along our roadways, and at the same time enhance the benefits of using public transit,” said Mayor Rusty Paul. “It’s a program with potential to provide benefits throughout the region.” The city will provide $25,000 in a local match to the grant, and another $15,000 comes through an in-kind contribution. Dunwoody will participate through staff time and $11,000 to install equipment at two intersections in the city. Smith said they can use the equipment for emergency vehicle signal preemption also, which has done at a few other intersections in the city. “We were pleased to partner with Sandy Springs and MARTA on this project because it fits perfectly with our goal of increasing connectivity,” said Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton. “The Dunwoody MARTA Station is a key transportation asset, and this program builds upon the investments that Dunwoody has made in traffic technology.” The project begins in September with the purchase of technology and modificaContinued on page 12
12 | Community
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“You don’t want to be disturbing other traffic flow when you are doing that. Everybody gets roughly the same amount of tion of traffic signals. The project will go live from February to green time,” he said. April 2021. Georgia Tech’s research team will evaluate the reThe transit buses will be a lower priority for signal changes sults through June 2021, followed by a public meeting in July. than emergency vehicles. From the evaluation and other feedback, recommendations will “What you really want to be thinking about, it’s not just how be identified and an implementation plan to go beyond the pilot many cars you can get through, but how many people can I get project will be developed. through?” Hunter said. The Georgia Smart project includes: Large vehicles like buses take longer to get started once ■ $100,000 in grant funding to develop their pilot. they’ve stopped. By limiting the number of times they have to ■ Technical assistance and $50,000 in funding for Georstop, it helps other vehicles, too, Hunter said. gia Tech researchers. The role of Georgia Tech is to make an impartial evaluation ■ Access to a network of peer governments to share best of the system and see how it works, Hunter said. From the evalpractices. uation they will recommend what might be done in the future. ■ Access to a local, national, and international network And they can consider what the cost of the system is versus the of experts for advice on piloting a smart community. benefits. Hunter said the project leverages a lot of emerging techThe project collaborators will have hardware challenges in nology, including the connected vehicle, enabling the buses to making the system work. They need to get technology installed communicate with the infrastructure. Current signal changat traffic signal cabinets for each intersection, he said. And coring is handled passively, with vehicles driving over sensors or responding technology needs to be in the buses so they can talk through observations via traffic cameras. to each other. “The intersection determines what action it will take, but They also will have operational challenges to make sure they the technology allows the bus to request longer green lights (or don’t penalize one piece of the traffic puzzle to help another. shorter red lights if safely available) when the bus schedule is They’ll need to determine how priorities work and how the trafheavily impacted by traffic,” MARTA spokesperson Stephany fic lights would change in an efficient manner and stay safe, Fisher said. STEPHANY FISHER he said. There are different types of signal switching capabilities, MARTA “MARTA has experimented with this technology in the past, Hunter said. Ambulances and fire trucks use preemption, but this project will pilot a newer approach that is less hardwhich gets immediate service to the signal so the emergency ware-intensive and, if successful, could be more easily deployed in other corridors,” vehicle can get through the intersection. In the case of transit, it’s more about priorFisher said. ity. A change still gets made to signaling, but it won’t be as drastic as might be seen with emergency vehicles.
Continued from page 11
The intersection determines what action it will take, but the technology allows the bus to request longer green lights (or shorter red lights if safely available) when the bus schedule is heavily impacted by traffic.
Public Safety | 13
City OKs $11M purchase of building, land to house public safety headquarters BY BOB PEPALIS The Sandy Springs Police Department (SSPD) and Municipal Court will get a new headquarters with the $11 million purchase of a four-story office building with 12.5 acres of land on Morgan Falls Road, which the City Council approved on Aug. 18. City Manager Andrea Surratt said the property at 620 Morgan Falls Road gives the city the option for a future fire station site, a fleet maintenance facility the city would own, and a place to establish a public safety training facility inside city limits. “Eventually we will need a fire station in this area and so this just seemed like the opportunity that might make sense for that use as well,” Surratt said. She said the property has plenty of space for future expansion for the public safety headquarters and auxiliary police uses, including vehicle maintenance bays, a “shoot house” for training and a gun range. City officials first tried to buy the property in 2017 when the asking price was $17.5 million, she said. The last offer the city made that year was $14.1 million. At that point, the council decided to emphasize completion of City Hall and the rest of the City Springs project, which opened in 2018. When the city revisited the purchase in March, a $9 million offer was made to Land Investment Partners, L.L.C., 29. Negotiations and counteroffers brought it to the final $11.025 million price. The property is vacant. The 109,454 square feet of office space meets the immediate needs of the SSPD and municipal court, which have been estimated at 100,000 square feet, she said. Renovations will be necessary to make the building secure for officers and staff, court staff and visitors. Surratt said the renovation costs for the building, which was constructed in 1990, will be lower than the cost of new construction. When City Hall was located at Morgan Falls, it was obvious the buildings weren’t secure, officials said. “In old City Hall, I had to share a bathroom with prisoners,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. Responding to a question from Councilmember Chris Burnett, Surratt said SSPD and Municipal Court have approximately 60,000 square feet of space in leased offices. Since 2011, the city has leased space at the Morgan Falls office complex at 7840 Roswell Road, she said. Three buildings house the SSPD and Municipal Court. A gym for police officers is located at 182 Hilderbrand Drive. A simulation “shoot SS
The future public safety headquarters at 620 Morgan Falls Road.
house” requires officers to go outside the city to Doraville to train. Councilmember Andy Baumann joined in supporting the purchase. “I don’t think there’s anything that my
constituents and my neighbors are united on more than our support of our police and firefighters, our first responders,” he said. The city will put down $100,000 as a
down payment in the next 30 days during the inspection period. Another $200,000 will be due 60 days after that.
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BY BOB PEPALIS Three potential sites picked for public access to the Chattahoochee River have been presented to the North End Revitalization Advisory Committee as a means to help stimulate development in that section of the city. The city has quietly sought to access, connect and “activate” the riverfront between Johnson Ferry Road and Holcomb Bridge Road, Catherine Mercier-Baggett, sustainability manager for the city, told the committee during a virtual meeting on Aug. 13. The goals include building upon the city’s Trail Master Plan and is intended to implement the Next Ten land use plans developed for the North End. “This idea of a connection with the river is not new,” she said. The biggest determination of what can be done is the Metropolitan River Connection Act, which passed into law in 1973. “The intent is to make sure any kind of development that happens within 2,000 feet of the river will take into account the environmental impact,” Merier-Baggett said. Staff picked three sites to consider for improved river access: Morgan Falls, which includes parkland within city limits and outside city limits that is part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (NRA); north Roswell Road on both sides of the bridge to the city of Roswell; and Crooked Creek Park, west of Holcomb Bridge and the most environmentally sensitive of the three sites. The city began analysis and mapping for the project in mid-November. Preliminary concepts were created starting in June up until the committee’s meeting. The city seeks public engagement online at http://spr.gs/riverfront through Aug. 23 to gain input for final concept plans. As the committee discussed redevelopment ideas for North End shopping centers, consultants said the project might serve as a catalyst to encourage redevelopment. “That’s absolutely something that could change the market on the North End,” said Geoff Koski, president of the Bleakly Advisory Group.
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The initial concept for improving river access at Morgan Falls includes additional trails, establishing conservancy and park areas and ramps to access the Chattahoochee directly.
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The Morgan Falls site has the most developed greenspace, including Morgan Falls Overlook Park and the Steel Canyon Golf Club. Connections to the trail master plan would include a boardwalk. And the trails would tie back to Roswell Road to increase access. “After speaking with the golf course, we determined that we wanted to keep it open for now,” Mercier-Baggett said. Some riverfront developments by other communities that were studied kept their golf courses, while others repurposed them. Another option would be to convert it to a nine-hole course, she said.
North Roswell Road
This site is closest to one of the four shopping center sites the city wants to see redeveloped to revitalize the North End. “It has the potential to tie in with the North River concept,” Mercier-Baggett said. SS
Community | 15
CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS
CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS
The North Roswell Road river access concept includes access points to the Chattahoochee River, an urban riverfront park area, a proposed mixed-use redevelopment and trails connecting nearby neighborhoods and the North River shopping center. A trail would connect it to the proposed pedestrian bridge across the river.
The Crooked Creek river access concept plan makes use of existing greenspace in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area just west of Holcomb Bridge Road. The environmentally sensitive land would require low footprint paths.
Sections of the riverfront land are environmentally sensitive, she said. A connection was added to the concept plan to connect to the proposed trail in the Trail Master Plan that leads to conservation property,” and also to the future bridge that will connect us to the city of Roswell.”
mentally sensitive it is,” she said. A conservation park is the best possible use, staff said. A portion of land connecting to Spalding Drive might accommodate more use, she said. Otherwise, any trails must have a light footprint. Most of the land is owned by the Chattahoochee NRA, including Holcomb Bridge Park and sections of the parkland in Sandy Springs across from Garrard Landing, a city of Roswell park.
The site near the far northeast corner of Sandy Springs is notable in that most of the land already is publicly owned. A parking lot is under construction at the site. “But we have faced some challenges on putting a trail there because of how environ-
WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS WHAT NOW? WEALTH PLANNING DURING COVID-19… DOES THE COVID-19 EXPERIENCE MEAN THAT WEALTH PLANNING IS NOW TOTALLY DIFFERENT? No, not necessarily. Market and economic conditions continue to change, but good wealth planning comes from being consistent in making sound decisions. HOW CAN YOU MAKE SOUND DECISIONS WHEN THE FUTURE IS SO UNCERTAIN? In nearly 50 years of wealth planning, we have worked with families who can personally recall terribly uncertain conditions. In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were staring each other down over nuclear missiles in Cuba and plenty of people felt it could be the end of civilization. In 1974, a sitting U.S. President resigned from office in disgrace and the average citizen’s faith in our government reached an all-time low. There have been times, of course, when the future looked bright. In 2000, we ushered in a new Millennium amidst great optimism, following a decade that saw the fall of the Iron Curtain and a peace dividend.
during the month of the Cuban missile crisis, you were 30% richer one year later. If you put money to work in U.S. stocks during the month Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, you were 250% richer ten years later. If you waited for the turn of the Millennium to put your money to work in U.S. stocks, you were 35% worse off two years later.
SO, WHAT IS YOUR POINT? Certainty or uncertainty about the future is an unreliable basis for building wealth. Ryan Patterson, CFA, CFP®, our Chief Investment Officer, puts it this way: “When everyone is feeling good about the future, the prices of financial assets are higher, reflecting that feeling. When few people feel good, prices are discounted and opportunities are greater.” If you invested in U.S. stocks
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Pandemic underlines challenge of meeting students’ and teachers’ basic needs “You have to do Maslow before you can do Bloom” is a frequent comment from educators, particularly since social-emotional learning and trauma-informed instruction have been a focus of school systems around the United States. The necessity of these programs has been made especially clear since the onset of the pandemic. Now, more than ever, educators are concerned with ensuring that the basic needs of students are being met so that the deeper learning included in Bloom’s Taxonomy can occur. Created by Benjamin Bloom, a twentieth-century educational psychologist, Bloom’s Taxonomy promotes higher-level thinking (analyzing, evaluating and creating) rather than just the remembering and recitation of facts. In Bloom’s Taxonomy, role-playing is on a higher level than memorizing, predicting outcomes is higher than answering basic questions. However, “you have to do Maslow before you do Bloom.” Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the basic principles of psychology included in most educator preparation courses. The focus in these educator preparation courses is often on aspiring educators understanding that students must have their most basic physiological needs (food, water, sleep, shelter) met before they are able to focus fully on learning. The current pandemic has continued to highlight those needs while bringing student’s safety and belonging needs (friendship, connectedness and sense of family) to the forefront of these discussions. The current inability to meet these students’ needs is, in many cases, a direct result of policy decisions made over the past two decades. From 2003 to 2018, the state of Georgia reduced public education funding through austerity cuts to QBE (Quality Basic Education), underfunding and changing the formulas for equalization and sparsity grants, and creating tax credit programs that divert
public funds to private resources provided schools. All these cuts by policymakers is resulted in increased being stretched to class sizes, the reducthe breaking point. tion of the arts and othEducators themer elective courses, less selves are in need professional developof some attention ment for teachers, and to Maslow’s before limited instructional they can provide resources available for Bloom’s. teachers and students. In addition to With further cuts to having their physpublic education in the ical safety needs current budget, the remet, educators covery from 16 years of need the security previous cuts is further of professional pay delayed. to meet their physFurther damaging to iological needs. SPECIAL our schools during this They need poliLisa Morgan is president of the Georgia Association of Educators time of budget cuts was cies that promote and has worked in the DeKalb the requirement that health and safety, County School District as an earlyschool systems choose whether the polichildhood educator since 2001. to either remain stacies are protecting tus quo or become charter systems or from a virus, an active shooter or an agStrategic Waiver School Systems. These gressive student. Educators need to be last two designations have resulted in respected as the professionals they are all systems but two that no longer have and provided the resources to practice to abide by any of the Title 20 laws or their profession. They also need to be state Board of Education rules concernheard as the experts in their field with ing the administration of their schools. the knowledge, expertise and experiFor these systems, such mandates as the ence to provide the solutions to the isnumber of days or hours of instruction, sues confronting public education. class-size limits, duty-free lunch for As we continue to navigate through teachers, requirements for the number the challenges ahead, our focus must of school counselors and social workers, be on the students and those who edurequirements for physical education or cate them. Meeting the needs of all infine arts classes, and fair dismissal for volved must be the primary objective of teachers no longer apply. all educational policy decisions. We canDuring this time when meeting our not afford to have another generation of students’ needs requires lower class sizstudents who spend their entire school es, more counselors and social workers, careers experiencing austerity and reand increased resources for technology ductions. We cannot continue to expect and the access to it, the funds to meet educators to try to supplement from these needs simply do not exist. The optheir own resources for what is not and posite is happening; larger class sizes should be provided by their schools. We are in effect, and support professionmust meet our students’ and educators’ als, elective classes, and resources are needs so they can thrive in their respecnot available. The ability of educators tive roles. Maslow, then Bloom. to dig deep inside themselves and their pockets to make up for the insufficient
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Commentary | 17
Brush up on grammar as an unusual school year begins I was young and idealistic, once. I imagined moving to the great western prairies like the homesteaders of yore, living off the land and frequently stepping outside so that the wind could whip romantically through my hair as I gazed wistfully in the distance. I recall once reading a book about homesteading women who literally fought off the wolves from their doors, and I fancied myself being just as strong, had I lived in those times. And then a hornet flew into the house and I freaked out trying to kill it. I also thought I could change the world as an English teacher. I got my healthy dose of reality there, too. I then had my own kids and left the classroom to raise them and became an at-home grammar snob. I must add that being a stuck-up grammarian does come with its downfalls, for I have been stymied by my own snobbery. I have rewritten entire sentences because I was uncertain of comma placement. Also, I am frequently stumped by the word “bring.” (Do l bring it to you or take it to you? I usually sidestep the issue and just say that I’ll drop it off). As for “lay” and “lie,” my rule of thumb is the same for directions, in that whichever way I want to go, the opposite one is probably correct. But I’m still waging my own private war against the improper use of “its” and “it’s.” I’ve written on this theme before, but it bears revisiting, especially at the start of a school year, especially when learning 2020 is unprecedented in the various forms that it is taking. Maybe the attempt at grammar ed is futile because fullRobin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest grown adults-with-degrees (who should know better) are in Dunwoody. To contact falling off the wagon. For years we have been writing in her or to buy her column incomplete sentences, and now our incomplete sentences collection, “The Best of the aren’t even complete. Nest,” see robinconte.com. Witness the devolution of a phrase. “Here are a few of my favorite things” became “Few of my favorite things” and, sadly, finally, “Few faves--”. Actually, the final devolution will likely be a series of heart and food emojis. It seems as if we are too busy to figure out how to stick both a subject AND a predicate into whatever message we want to type. Or, are we concerned that it somehow says that we’re just not up with the times if we bother to construct a complete thought? Are we too cool to be clear? Are we trending towards pithy yet vague and error-ridden brevity? Don’t be swayed, kids! Remember the basics! Punctuation is important! A sentence expresses a complete thought! And if you know the difference between “to,” “too,” and “two,” you can rule the world. Moreover, I say that after the opposable thumb, the evolution of man reached its apex with the ability to use an apostrophe. It’s your gift. Don’t squander it. Now, for the public-service announcement portion of this column and for all you students out there, I offer the following tips: It’s: a contraction for IT IS. It’s about time you learned this. Its: the possessive form of the pronoun IT. Modern civilization as we know it would crumble without its apostrophe. They’re: a contraction for THEY ARE. They’re throwing punctuation out the door. Their: the possessive form of the pronoun THEY. Their gift to the world is good grammar. There: usually refers to location, typically meaning NOT HERE. He is not there because he is learning virtually. To: a preposition or part of an infinitive. She went to school to learn about such things. Too: an adverb meaning ALSO or EXCESSIVELY. Is all this grammar talk getting to be too much for you, too? Two: refers to NUMBER. That makes two of us. To review: They’re going to pull their hair out if the two fellows over there don’t stop texting long enough to learn the mechanics of writing too, and it’s not that hard of a thing to learn. Now, go forth and conquer, kids. But first, could you please kill that wasp for me?
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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 email@example.com.
Local theater companies hope to stage pandemic comebacks Brandt Blocker of City Springs Theatre Company.
Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the DunwoodySandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Egizio of Stage Door Players.
Michelle Davis of Act3 Productions in a staging of “Godspell.”
Like just about everything else we love, live theater is canceled for the foreseeable future -- and many of live theater companies are wondering how or if they will survive. Three excellent theatre companies in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs offer a range of experiences for a range of audiences. For semi-professional productions in a blackbox theatre, we have Act3 Playhouse in Sandy Springs. For an intimate experience with professional talent, we have Dunwoody’s Stage Door Players, who produce fullscale productions on a small platform stage. And for full-blown Broadway-style musical productions on a full proscenium stage, we have City Springs Theatre Company at Byers Theatre. Despite their differences, they all rely on ticket sales for most of their operating funds. But ticket sales are what they don’t have and won’t have for the near future. At City Springs, where most of the talent is Actors’ Equity, no one can come back to work till the union gives them permission. Act3 doesn’t use union talent, and Stage Door Players uses mostly non-union. Even if their theater buildings open any time soon, they would still be unable to mount productions because the talent would be reluctant to sing and shout in each other’s faces, much less kiss and hug! “Welcome to my COVID nightmare,” said Stage Door Players Artistic Director Robert Egizio in a statement that could apply to all three theaters. Back in March, Stage Door Players was a week from opening “The Outsiders” when the City of Dunwoody closed their venue. The sets had been built, the costumes created and rehearsals ongoing. They honored everyone’s contract, though they couldn’t
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mount the show. Egizio admits the decision to close was inevitable. “We had six out of seven characters using the same phone!” he exclaimed. But Egizio pointed out that backstage interaction is as problematic as onstage because of the close contact required for costume fittings, set building and dressing rooms. Act3’s last production closed the week after Valentine’s Day. In the works was an immersive production of “Cabaret,” in which they were turning their entire space into the Kit Kat Club. “We kept trying but gave up and refunded to season ticket holders. Some donated their tickets,” said Act3 Artistic Director Michelle Davis. Like Stage Door Players, they’ve had no ticket income since February. At City Springs, where the cost to mount a typical production is $500,000, ticket sales are down 50% from last year. “We’ve canceled two-and-a-half, soon to be four-and-a-half, shows,” said Executive/ Artistic Director Brandt Blocker, though the company recently announced a series of four special Broadway concerts live-streamed from the Byers Theatre. Season subscribers will have access at no extra charge, with complimentary food-and-wine gift baskets for Producers Circle members. Individual tickets will be $35. All three companies are hoping to have a 2021 season. City Springs has already scheduled productions for March, May and July. Act3 plans to mount a play already scheduled for 2021. Stage Door Players’ plans are still undecided. As for the future of live theater, all three agree there will be changes, most noticeably at the two smaller theaters, where social distancing is not possible. “One of our biggest selling points -- our intimacy -- is holding us back,” said Egizio of his 125-seat theatre. Stage Door Players had hoped to mount fall productions in the amphitheater at Brook Run Park until the city of Dunwoody banned large gatherings. Egizio pointed out a small community theatre in Iowa that is mounting productions in a parking lot with a temporary stage from which the sound is piped to people in their cars. He’s planning two cabaret shows that will stream on Facebook and Instagram. Act3’s Davis foresees new plays that weave the concept of social distancing into the plot. “Creativity will determine who survives short-term,” Egizio said. And that applies to individuals as well. Most actors and the other backstage people who support them are gig workers with no income when not involved in a production. “Many talented theater people are living on unemployment and food stamps because even their second jobs have dried up,” said Egizio. “I know actors who have been evicted and had to move back in with their parents.” To help one another, Atlanta theaters and artists have banded together to form the Atlanta Artist Relief Fund, to help those in dire straits. Donations are accepted at both the website atlartsrelief.org. In addition, all three theater companies are accepting donations through their websites: act3productions.org, cityspringstheatre.com and stagedoorplayers.org.
Commentary | 19
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
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Buckhead resident helps Georgia Audubon spread its wings When Esther Stokes moved into a new home in Brookwood Hills a couple of years ago, the yard sprouted many familiar flowering plants with roots in foreign places. Now those imports are disappearing. Stokes is replacing her azaleas and camellias with Joe Pye weed, cardinal flowers and other types of greenery that grew up here in the wild. With her new plantings, Stokes, a landscape designer by trade, is going native. Why? Because her garden is for the birds. It’s a bit for the bees, too. Also, the bugs, to tell the truth. But it’s mostly for the birds Stokes has been paying close attention to since she was a child growing up in Virginia and that she supports as chair of the board of Georgia Audubon, a bird-centered nonprofit that claims it builds places “where birds and people thrive.” “Literally, that is what we try to do,” Stokes said one warm August morning as she sat on the shaded patio in her native-plant-filled garden. “Whether we are restoring or establishing new habitat or whether we are maintaining what is there, everything is through the lens of birds. And if birds are thriving, those are good places for people.” These days, Stokes said, Georgia Audubon wants to do more to support birds. The 1,700-member organization, based at the Blue Heron Nature Center in Buckhead, is spreading its efforts across the state, is adding staff, and has changed its name to reflect its new aims. Until August, the organization was known as the Atlanta Audubon Society, or, before that, the Atlanta Bird Club. Stokes says Georgia Audubon intends to work with the other, smaller Audubon societies around Georgia and will sponsor projects to help fill the gaps between various local clubs and state Audubon societies in neighboring states. “I feel like Atlanta Audubon, and now Georgia Audubon, has become a part of the conservation community,” she said. “We have been very intentional about that, and because we think partnerships are critical -- you can’t do everything yourself -- we’ve begun a lot of that sort of work. And there’s lots left to do.” Interest in birds came naturally to Stokes. “I’ve been interested in parks and birds as long as I can remember,” she said. There was a time, back when she was in her 20s, that she enjoyed simply keeping an eye on birds and kept lists of the different kinds of birds she’d seen. Nowadays, with the coronavirus keeping everyone at home, more people are discovering the pleasures of birdwatching, she said, and Georgia Audubon is providing online classes and virtual bird walks on Facebook to help both longtime bird fans and newcomers expand their participation in the hobby. “We have found people are staying at home and watching their feeders and it has opened a window and JOE EARLE their minds,” Stokes said. “People Esther Stokes checks on Joe Pye Weed and have noticed that not all birds look Cardinal flowers growing in her backyard. alike.” But Stokes’ chief interest these days is watching the bigger picture, the overall habitat that supports the birds. Her new interest came as a natural outgrowth of her work as a landscape designer, which she started in the 1980s, and continued as her volunteer work with Piedmont Park led to work with other Atlanta parks and eventually back to birds through Audubon. Native habitats are important she said, because birds and bees and bugs do best when they live among the sorts of plants their kind long have lived among. “For the last 50 years, in the landscape area, we have imported all these plants from China and Japan that do well here, but the insects don’t recognize them,” she said. “They are beautiful, but they don’t provide ecosystem services.” And some birds depend on those bugs as a source of food. So, what’s good for the bugs can be good for the birds, too. Stokes says the people at Georgia Audubon intend to foster native habitat across the state. One of the organization’s new employees will be based at and work on projects on the Georgia coast. “Research has shown us that ‘if you build it, they will come,’” she said, as birds occasionally darted through the shrubs and trees in her yard in search of late-morning snacks. “We’re losing things like grassland birds because they don’t have habitat, but if you build a grassland, they will come back.” Georgia birds now can find a number of recently restored habitats, with more added every year. In Brookwood Hills, for instance, they can just check out Esther Stokes’ backyard. SS
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20 | Community
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Episcopal school buys shuttered church Continued from page 1 Duffy Hickey, president of the High Point Civic Association and a former member of the church, said he’s generally in favor of the use, but also a little concerned. Hickey said members of the HPCA had a conference call with school officials on Aug. 18, “and it’s clear that it’s not a school. But it’s really a daycare,” he said. The church was a fixture in the community for more than 50 years, though its congregation dwindled to a dozen in 2016. Within a year the church had renamed itself from the Church of the Atonement in a fresh start that more than tripled members of the church. But less than three years later the church held its final service on Jan. 12 because the 40 members weren’t enough to support its operations. On April 22, the church and its property were sold to St. Martin’s Episcopal School for $10 and closing costs, with additional requirements for at minimum $1 million in liability insurance and a title warranty. By June 12, St. Martin’s had filed documents with the city’s Planning and Zoning Department that include the sales contract and a project information sheet. The school held a community meeting on June 29 virtually and at the former church to present its plans for a private school and daycare use.
A second community meeting and a Planning Commission meeting needs to be held. The anticipated application date of July 7 for a conditional use permit passed without St. Martin’s being able to file any paperwork, which would detail plans for the site. That application would need to go before the city planning commission for a recommendation. From there the zoning case would go before City Council for approval or denial. None of those steps in the process have been held due to the pandemic causing the city to cancel in-person meetings. The city’s permitting office is only open to phone calls, and the Planning Commission has not been able to meet. Kristi Gaffney, director of marketing for St. Martin’s, said the pandemic has slowed or redirected their planning processes and they are still under development. The school has not decided staff needs, numbers of children or even the age ranges. It is too soon to say the school would request the location be used only for infants and toddlers, or to include older preschool-aged children, she said. The church has a community garden on its grounds, which Ottley said will stay that way. He hopes to use a section for the school so children can learn hands-on. “I think that’s a symbol of what Episcopal identity is all about,” Ottley said. “And
NOMINATIONS ARE OPEN Each January, we feature students from Intown’s public schools, private schools and colleges who have given back to their community in a significant way. Over the last ten years, we’ve featured students who have created their own nonprofits, have given up summer vacation to work domestically and abroad to help the less fortunate and one even helped build a library by collecting books. The 13th annual 20 Under 20 will appear in our January 2021 issue and we are now seeking nominations of students
ages 19 and younger who have committed themselves to service to the community. Nominations are welcome from teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, siblings, fellow students or community leaders. Here’s the information we need: • Nominator (name, relationship to nominee and contact information) • Nominee (Name, age, grade, school, parent or guardian names, contact information) • Characteristics and service: Please provide a paragraph describing why this nominee deserves recognition. Include service projects, goals, interests and areas of interest to help illustrate your point. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 6. Please email your nominations to editor Collin Kelley at email@example.com.
The former Highpoint Episcopal Community Church property as it appears in Fulton County property records.
I can’t wait for our kiddos to have the opportunity to be a part of it. It’s going to be beautiful.” A memorial garden also is located on the church property where the cremains of some former parishioners have been interred. Under terms of the property sale, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is responsible for removing the remains within 18 months and reinterring them under its own guidelines. The HPCA has not taken a stance on the proposal. Hickey, who serves as its president, said it is too soon to make a decision and they do not have enough information. Speaking only for himself, Hickey said he would prefer that they allow the location to continue to be used for community meetings. And he was glad to hear they said the community garden would be open to the community, as his wife has been managing it for eight years. Hickey appreciates the offer Ottley made to open the church to former members for church services occasionally, but doesn’t expect many takers. “When we had a parish going there and later a worshipping community, not an official parish, and we had an Episcopal priest with us, we weren’t getting more than 30 or 40 people in a service unless it was Easter or Christmas,” he said. “And that’s why the parish was closed.” “I could see them doing services there for the school kids and the parents of the school kids,” Hickey said. The former church location has the space to accommodate some of St. Martin’s staff and some storage, as space for both are in short supply at their Brookhaven school campus. “And now with COVID, we need all the open space we can get,” Ottley said. The building needs work for St. Martin’s use. “There are definitely some renovations
that we will need to make to the building so that it’s up to code for young children and for staff,” he said. They’ll need doors with windows, more windows, more light and more space per child. “We just need to move walls around basically, is what we will end up doing,” Ottley said. The sanctuary probably would be used for chapel that’s held once per week. Ottley said St. Martin’s has had strong relationships with city and neighborhood partners in Brookhaven, a practice they want to continue in Sandy Springs.
I think that’s a symbol of what Episcopal identity is all about. And I can’t wait for our kiddos to have the opportunity to be a part of it. It’s going to be beautiful. LUIS OTTLEY HEAD OF SCHOOL, ST. MARTIN’S. SS
Community | 21
City shares concepts to redevelop North End shopping center Continued from page 1 ■ Attract and support local small businesses in the North End. ■ Improve multimodal connectivity throughout the North End. ■ Model how mixed-use (retail, office, housing, and institutional uses, and green space) can work in Sandy Springs. ■ Build upon existing green spaces and parks to create a cohesive public space network. Consultants said a lack of demand and the effects of the pandemic will make retail development difficult. The consultants and city staff, including Economic Development Director Andrea Worthy, agreed that the key to success of any redevelopment is to change Roswell Road as suggested in the city’s Next Ten comprehensive plan. Next Ten envisions Roswell Road as a pedestrian friendly route, tree-lined and with a landscaped median. Consultants from Blakely Edward and TSW agreed little demand exists for retail in the North End and the outlook for retail anywhere is changing faster due to the pandemic as retail businesses fail after a time with no customers and the slow return to public shopping by residents. The committee’s reaction to the concepts was generally favorable, but several members said they wanted more time to study what was presented. The concepts will go online for week of public review and comment at the city’s dedicated website at http://spr.gs/northend on the following schedule: Northridge, Aug. 24-31; The former Loehmann’s Plaza/River Springs (8610 Roswell Road), Aug. 31-Sept. 7; the North River Village (8765-8897 Roswell Road), Sept. 7-14; and the Big Lots/North Springs center (7300 Roswell Road), Sept. 14-21.
crease the developable land. Green space, primarily in buffers, would line at least three sides of each plan. After seeing the presentation, North End committee member Tamara Carrera said a developer would need to build affordability into the sites. Committee member Ken Dishman said he hoped requiring affordable housing is incentivized, rather than killing a project. “I hope that we have the people to really dig into that issue and probably a few others, building heights and so on, so we don’t come across as being draconian and turn away the development,” Dishman said.
Concept 1: Existing Zoning Commercial retail – 26,425 square feet (ground floor) Multi-unit over retail – 40 units Townhomes – 18 units Total: 58 units This plan follows existing zoning requirements. It keeps the Goodwill store at the request of the property owner, 8371 Roswell Realty LLC. Ryan Snodgrass of TSW said zoning requiring ground-floor commercial to face all streets may lead to too
much commercial space. Forty residential units would be built above the commercial space. The 18 townhomes overlooking the creek on the northern side of the property would have their own garages. Existing street width and design requirements limit how much land could be developed, Snodgrass said. And the three-story building limit would make a parking deck difficult.
Concept 2: Neighborhood Center Commercial retail – 14,000 square feet (ground floor) Multi-unit – 284 units Townhomes – 13 units Live/Work – 9 units Total: 306 units Zoning changes would be required for this concept to allow a reduction in commercial space and construction of buildings up to five stories tall. That would include allowing stand-alone multi-unit buildings with no ground floor retail, allowing the live/work units to count as ground floor commercial. Live/work units allow residents to conduct business – retail or office – within the units. Reducing the lot size requirements for
the multi-unit buildings and townhomes also would be necessary. The retail would either have frontage on Roswell Road or be close to it. A parking deck would be more economically feasible with the taller buildings.
Concept 3: Multi-unit Village Commercial retail – 7,800 square feet (ground floor) Multi-unit – 718 units Major zoning changes would be required for this concept, starting with allowing building heights of up to 10 stories. A reduction in street width and design requirements also would be necessary. A mere 7,800 square feet of retail is proposed in the four small retail buildings fronting Roswell Road and another small retail spot behind them. The site would include 10- and 8-story multi-unit residential buildings from behind the retail to the back of the property on its easternmost side. Roads would only be built on the southern side of the property. An eightstory parking deck would be surrounded by the largest multi-unit building in the center of the property. Four smaller, threestory, multi-unit buildings would be constructed south of the tallest buildings.
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The 10.5-acre Northridge Shopping Center has 13 retail tenants, including restaurants, a barbershop, nail salon and a Goodwill donation center and thrift store. It has 359 surface parking spaces and access to Roswell Road and Northridge Road. The center sits far back from the roadways with no retail frontage on either road. The property does not include the corner parcels occupied by a Circle M convenience store and a Waffle House, nor does it include the small commercial building just east of that on Northridge Road, which is home to Oasis Café & Grill and Him and Her Grooming Lounge. Three concept plans presented started with a plan that followed existing zoning and ending with a plan requiring extensive zoning changes. All concepts are for mixed-use redevelopment, with varying amounts of commercial space. A new street grid would be required for each plan, with narrower widths sought to inSS
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22 | Education
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FALL 2020 | EDUCATION GUIDE
After school, during pandemic Extracurricular clubs and sports adapt to a distanced year BY ERIN SCHILLING email@example.com
When freshman Jace Rubenstein enrolled in North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs for its band program, drumming on a video call in his room wasn’t exactly how he pictured the experience. Rubenstein, who lives in Johns Creek, signed up for the fine arts magnet school in part because of its marching band program — which has not yet had a practice. As the 2020-2021 school year starts virtually for Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb counties, teachers and students have adjusted to almost everything online — not just with classrooms, but also extracurricular activities like club meetings and band practices. Athletic programs have also had postponements or additional COVID-19 safety precautions put into place, making almost all aspects of a typical school year different for students. Rubenstein said marching band practice was slated to start the last week of the summer, and now he isn’t sure when it may come back. Fulton County School District delayed sports games until at least the middle of September, and DeKalb County School District delayed sports games until at least the end of the month. Marching bands would usually have performances at football games. To practice percussion in the virtual age, Rubenstein said he and his classmates mute their video and play along with the teacher, who’s unmuted, on an electric drum. “It’s been fine for me,” said Rubenstein, whose school year started Aug. 17. “We’re still getting to play, which is the best thing.” Danielle Rubenstein said one of the hardest adjustments to virtual learning is her son Jace not being able to meet people at his new school. “The only people they really see during the day are the teachers,” Danielle Rubenstein said. “But everyone is doing their best.”
Parents juggle children and work in a virtual reopening BY ERIN SCHILLING firstname.lastname@example.org
Natalie Cedor’s living room transformed into an elementary, middle and high school on Aug. 17. Though her three boys-- fifth-grader Stefan, seventh-grader Jaeden and 11thgrader Devon -- may all be in the same room, the schedules for each of them are different, but Cedor said her children have been surprisingly self regulated in their work. “In the spring, there wasn’t as much structure,” said Cedor, whose children are in Fulton County School District. “Now it’s more structured and there’s more weight for the kids’ performance, so a little bit more stress for me.” Cedor and other parents in the Fulton, DeKalb and Atlanta public school sys-
Above, Jace Rubenstein, a freshman at North Springs Charter High School, poses for a photo with his electric drum.
Kindergartener Kevin Duran poses for a photo.
Laura McEwen said her daughter Amelia McEwen, a sophomore at Dunwoody High School, has been playing softball almost all her life. When they found out the DCSD athletic seasons had been postponed while on their way
tems have had to adjust to having their children home as the districts started at least the first month of classes with virtual learning. Some parents are pooling resources for home-schooling; others get assistance from community nonprofits. All are adapting. With a summer to prepare, teachers and administrators have created more defined schedules for the students than the emergency closures in the spring allowed, so many parents have to juggle their own work and their children’s schooling as the fall semester kicks off.
Continued on page 30
Continued on page 28
Softball keeps swinging
Left, Dunwoody High School senior and Student Government Association president Dabney Duncan poses for a photo at her virtual learning work station.
Education | 23
SEPTEMBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
DeKalb superintendent adjusts to new district BY ERIN SCHILLING email@example.com
DeKalb County School District Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris hopes to restore the district’s former “stellar reputation” under her leadership, she told Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch during a virtual back-to-school conversation on Aug. 13. But in her first two months in her new role, she said gearing up students and staff to start classes again during the COVID-19 pandemic has been her first priority. “Based on what I was reading in terms of what the community wanted in their superintendent, it very much aligned to what I believed to be my strengths,” Watson-Harris said. “I very much wanted to come to be a part of the future of the DeKalb County School District.” WatsonHarris, who previously served as second in command at the New York City Department of Education, started in SPECIAL DCSD on July Superintendent Cheryl 1. Her first few Watson-Harris weeks have been hyper-focused on preparations for virtual learning and the return to school, Watson-Harris said. As soon as she was hired, she started helping with the COVID-19 reopening plan, which included pushing the start date for classes back two weeks to Aug. 17 and detailing when DCSD could return to in-person classes based on the data of COVID-19 infections in the county. In addition to preparing and maintaining a smooth virtual learning environment for students, Watson-Harris said, staff members are continuing to ready the schools to transition back into in-person classes whenever that becomes an option. DCSD is working with the DeKalb County Board of Health to analyze the COVID-19 data. Watson-Harris and her team will assess whether schools can reopen at a September DeKalb County Board of Education meeting. Her experience in New York while it was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic helped her prepare to lead DCSD, Watson-Harris said. “What that experience really did teach me was the value of human life,” WatsonHarris said. “There was a point in those last couple months where we started almost every staff meeting with a moment of silence. Continued on page 26
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24 | Education
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Fulton Superintendent looks to return to in-person learning BY BOB PEPALIS Fulton County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney spoke with the Reporter at the start of the second week of classes to discuss the challenges of reopening schools while safeguarding students and teachers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district was on track to resume inperson classes Sept. 8. What has been the biggest challenge in getting the school system prepared for the 2020-2021 school year? Quite honestly, just the personal interactions that we have in a typical school year with families and students, between teachers and families. Our district develops relationships, one of the examples of the work we do, building positive reactions. It’s just more complicated when you have to do it digitally.
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Once students return to the classroom in the next reopening phases, what will it take to keep students in the classrooms and avoid a return to universal remote learning?
We have both now a reopening matrix, but we also have a closing matrix. We fully expect when school closings, we will have some schools requiring temporary closures, until COVID is no longer a threat to us. We can very well isolate small numbers of cases in the school here and there and not have to shut the entire district down. But I always want to be clear, there will likely be time a school will have to shut down for 24 or 72 hours so we have time to SPECIAL Superintendent Mike Looney. clean and do contact traces
Complaints have been made about the remote learning experience, with access to virtual classes, homework and more limited or just not working. What has staff done to correct these issues? Should we expect these kinds of problems with universal remote learning?
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What we do know is that it’s not an issue of bandwidth. It could be a home router, could be how much connectivity family has at home, could be some other variable. But it’s certainly not the district bandwidth. Some school systems have received a lot of pushback from teachers and teachers’ unions to keep from bringing everyone back to the classroom. What has been your experience here in Fulton County? Our teachers have expressed a desire to continue working with students. Obviously, we have a segment of our teachers that are concerned… And it’s just an expression of their uneasiness because of the COVID virus. It’s not because they don’t want to work. And our teachers have been back in buildings for two weeks, learning to work social distancing, wearing masks. We are doing that in advance of students beginning to return on Sept. 8, in a very deliberate and slow process so we don’t all of a sudden bring thousands of students in... only to have to close again. We think it’s a practical approach, measuring our practices on the way. What is the school district doing for teachers who have underlying health issues that health safety guidelines say are reasons for avoiding other people and nonessential travel? Two things that Fulton specifically has done: One is we have provided an additional leave type for up to 15 days if a teacher self-quarantines or has other legitimate reason not to report to the workplace. They’re still teaching from home if possible. What we’re doing in Fulton is not provided in other school districts. In addition, we have set up a process by which teach-
What is the status and current plan for competitive sports in Fulton County Schools? So at this point in time we have delayed competitions between other schools and schools districts until at least the 14th of September. That‘s so we can make sure we’ve down everything we can to mitigate exposure to other schools and districts. That, too, is predicated on the level of spread in the community at that time. Will students in the last school year and this one be less well prepared than those in previous years because of the effects of the pandemic? Well certainly I think from a global, regional and world perspective, yes. Digital learning, remote learning, does not offer the same opportunities for students to learn and to do so in a collaborative and supportive way. Yes, I do believe we will have ground to make up when we return to traditional schooling. Having said that, our goal is to make that learning gap as small as possible relative to their peers in other places. But I fully acknowledge that students in Fulton County and elsewhere will have some ground to make up relative to where they would have been if this had not happened. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I’ve also heard and seen from students… where the universal remote learning strategy has been very beneficial to them. Moving forward, we will have to provide more options and opportunities for students, based on their circumstance and needs. I think that virtual schooling will become another arm of the district’s offering. We will be better. At the end of the day we are going to be better as a result of the pandemic. We’ve sharpened our skills, our tool kit. Increased our abilities in relation to how we incorporate and leverage and utilize technology. And it’s increased our focus on the social emotional learning needs of our students
Education | 25
SEPTEMBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
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26 | Education
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New Superintendent Herring says APS is ready for challenge BY COLLIN KELLEY New Atlanta Public Schools’ Superintendent Lisa Herring has quickly become a familiar face to parents and students, despite only being on the job – officially – since July 1. Herring was the face of a series of online information sessions and town halls over the summer as the district wrestled with SPECIAL the choice of Superintendent holding inLisa Herring. person or vir-
tual classes with COVID-19 cases on the rise. Stepping into a high-profile new role during a raging pandemic while the country also reckoned with racial injustice could have easily been a baptism by fire, but Herring has also seen opportunities for better education and equity emerge from the chaos. The decision to continuing with virtual learning became clear as the district looked at the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the community, Herring said. “I know parents and students want to be back in the classroom, because I agree that virtual learning is not a substitute for in-person learning,” Herring said. “But it’s a decision we had to make for health and safety purposes.” Herring said she had been “grieving” not being able to meet more of the staff and teachers in person as social distancing and Zoom meetings have become the norm, and would sorely miss visiting schools to meet
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students on opening day. Still, the new superintendent said there were abundant resources for parents and students online to ease into the academic year from home. “We’ve had town halls for every grade level, and those have been recorded so parents can go back and refer to them for information. We’ve created a new website (atlantapublicschools.us/backtoschool) to access all the information on technology, meals, and we’ll have an overview of the educational platform looks like for each grade level.” With APS students facing at least nine weeks of learning at home, one of Herring’s top priorities has been making sure every student has access to a laptop, iPad, and internet. The Atlanta Board of Education’s Aug. 3 vote to spend $24.6 million over five years to lease devices for 40,000 students – making sure every APS student has one – was a crucial step toward remedying disparities in education. Herring said a survey sent to parents received 20,000 responses, with more than 50% of those stating their child needed a device to begin or continue virtual learning. “There continues to be a need, but we’re in a solid place,” Herring said, directing parents who still need a device or individuals or organizations that would like to donate devices to atlantapublicschools.us/getourkidsconnected. Since many children rely on breakfast and lunch for their daily nutrition, Herring said the food distribution program started last spring would continue. Five breakfasts and five lunches per week will be made available for each student, and parents must order each week via the APS website. Herring said she hopes that community partners will step in to fill the gap of evening and weekend meals for students. When classes do resume, Herring said all of APS’s brick and mortar facilities are ready with plans for social distancing in place. Masks will be required for students and teachers. Herring has also been busy behind the scenes working with the school board to reinstate positions eliminated by her predecessor, along with new hires the superintendent said will be essential to APS’s growth. Herring received board approval to re-
instate four positions including chief of schools, chief of staff, chief academic officer, and senior administrative manager. Herring also got approval to bring colleagues from her previous appointment as superintendent of Birmingham, Alabama’s public schools to fill two of those positions. Jarod Bishop, who served as Herring’s executive coordinator of policy governance and external affairs, will take the APS chief of staff position, while Anita Williams, who served as instructional superintendent in Birmingham, will become APS’s new chief of schools. Perhaps the most significant new leadership position will be the Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer, which will be filled after a nationwide search. Herring described the position as a “monumental” step forward for the school district and said she was “super excited” to get board approval for what she believes is the first position of its kind in the region – maybe the country. “Atlanta is the most unequal city in our nation due to income inequality,” Herring said. “White students are 4.5 grade levels ahead of their black peers.” Herring also noted that full-time staff – including paraprofessionals, clerks, custodians, and food staff – would get a pay increase to $15 per hour. On a personal note, Herring said her return to Atlanta has been a welcoming one despite all the challenges. She said parents have started to recognize her in the supermarket and she’s had quite few conversations about the new school year and those just stopping to welcome her back to the city where her career began. The Macon native and Spelman College graduate completed her observational field work at APS’s Therrell High School. During her time at Spelman, Herring also volunteered and worked at Warren Memorial Boys and Girls Club of Atlanta. She is a 2008 graduate of Leadership Georgia and spent several years as a school counselor and assistant director of student support services in DeKalb County with a similar role in Bibb County. “I’m home,” Herring said with delight. “I wake up every morning and I am grateful to be here.”
DeKalb superintendent adjusts to new district
Continued from page 23
When I see where the trends are going here, I don’t want that to be a reality in DeKalb.” As for advice to parents helping their students with virtual learning, she suggested making sure they maintain a schedule and continue to treat virtual learning as school. “We want our scholars to know that even if we’re in the virtual space this is still school and we have high expectations,” Watson-Harris said. “We’re going to support them every step of the way and be flexible, but we’re also going to hold them accountable for what they have to learn because we need them to learn.” Watson-Harris said she always wants there to be “two-way communication” between the district and students and families. She has created a weekly superintendent newsletter, and she’ll also be monitoring student engagement data each week to try to make sure students in all areas of the district are participating. Though most of her attention was focused on getting the schools and teachers ready for the school year, she said she’s also been working to fill some high-level vacancies in the district leadership as one of her other top priorities. Watson-Harris said she wanted to work in DCSD because of its size and diversity. She said she has family in the area and has always enjoyed the area.
Education | 27
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Home-schooling Cedor said she works from home, so sometimes she also has to remind them Cedor created work spaces and schedto ask their teachers questions instead of ules for her children to help them stay running upstairs to get her. Her children on track. She helps them set up at their not being able to interact with their peers desks at 8 a.m. to allow for some time to has also been an issue, Cedor said. log into programs. She said they didn’t For her fifth-grader Stefan, Cedor said she’s considering sending him to the YMCA once a week, where staff members there help facilitate virtual learning with small groups of students and do activities with them after the school day is over. Her 11th-grader Devon has high-functioning autism, and Cedor said he needs the emotional and social interactions of the classroom setting. “Being home with SPECIAL Fifth-grade student Stefan Cedor does his school work on the first his brothers is not helping him,” Cedor day of classes at the desk his mom Natalie Cedor set up for him. said. “He’s going to have many technical problems in the mature, and these are the skills I need first week. him to learn, but he can’t learn it because “The major issue of the day, to be honhe’s not in that environment.” est with you, is food,” Cedor said. “I have three boys. They eat a lot, and because Teaching pod there’s access to food, these kids want to Marissa Evans, whose daughter Elise eat all day, constantly.” is in third grade at Dunwoody Elementa-
Continued from page 22
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Education | 29
SEPTEMBER 2020 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net ry School, said she teamed up with three other families in her daughter’s class to create a teaching pod for their children. DeKalb County School District started classes on Aug. 17. “The kids can continue to grow in a learning environment while still maintaining safety,” Evans said. The families hired a certified teacher who was planning on getting a job in a metro Atlanta school district until it went on a hiring freeze. They chose one of the houses as the “classroom” for the students. Evans said she’s felt fortunate she’s able to help her daughter learn through that way. “We all learned in the ’80s and ’90s very differently than how the kids are learning today,” Evans said. “What we know sometimes isn’t even helpful, and we’ll have to Google it anyway.”
Gabriela Duran, whose four children are in the Cross Keys cluster in DeKalb County School District, said virtual learning has been hardest for her youngest children. Kevin and Derek, who are in kindergarten, have to use her computer because the district did not give them devices. Duran also works on her computer, so she uses it when the children are done with school. She said teachers have also started to request they print out materials, and she doesn’t have a printer at home. Her older children, Axel and Mischa, are at Sequoyah Middle School and have their own devices from the school. “I haven’t been having a problem,” Duran said about helping her children with virtual learning. “But I feel for my community, and families who are having a lot of trouble with that.” Duran works with families to help with virtual learning through Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, a nonprofit that aims to help families on Buford Highway. Duran said Los Vecinos set up WhatsApp group chats for parents based on the schools their children attend. They also hold Thursday classes to help people learn the different virtual platforms and create video tutorials. “We have too many people who can’t speak English or people who can’t read,” Duran said. “We try to make videos so people understand what’s happening in the schools.” Wade Morris, a parent of two Garden Hill Elementary students in Atlanta Public Schools, said he’s been impressed by the teachers and administrators as the students prepared to go back on Aug. 24. He said they didn’t have any technology issues after the first day. Morris said he and his wife both have flexible work schedules, so they’re able to help their first grader Annie and third grader Jane. Their youngest, Eliza, is in pre-K. “One of us has to be sitting next to the 4 year old at all times, and the other one has to be keeping an ear out for the 6 year old,” Morris said. APS has done a great job with getting supplies to students and communicating about how virtual learning will work, Morris said. SS
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After school, during pandemic Continued from page 22
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From left, Dunwoody High School students Courtney Craft, Amelia McEwen and Alani Moore pose for a photo at their first softball game of the season at Brookhaven’s Murphey Candler Park.
to softball scrimmage, they still wanted to try to have some sort of season. DCSD has still allowed teams to do group conditioning while games are postponed, and McEwen said parents got together to create a league with the Murphey Candler Girls Softball Association so the girls could still play a pseudo-season. The teams are divided by school, McEwen said. McEwen said they hold two DHS conditioning practices a week with Sunday games at Brookhaven’s Murphey Candler Park that are not associated with the school. The first game was Aug. 23. Masks are required except when players are on the field. “It doesn’t count toward the region, but it was so fun to see some sort of normalcy,” McEwen said. “Distancing, mask[-wearing] and temperature checks were enforced.” McEwen said her daughter played on a travel softball team over the summer, and Murphey Candler was one of the best venues in terms of COVID-19 safety precautions. Her daughter has been playing softball at the park since she was 8 years old. “They’re not too upset about it,” McEwen said. “It feels like a partially normal season.”
Dabney Duncan, a senior at Dun-
woody High School, said she’s found a way to connect with other students at her school through Instagram. Duncan, president of the Student Government Association, said the club’s officers have been meeting about once a week via video call with their teacher sponsors. SGA would normally plan events such as homecoming or pep rallies, so in lieu of those, Duncan said they’ve been doing “Wildcat Wednesday” spirit day posts, named for the school’s mascot. The SGA Instagram account, @dhswildcatpride, also posts other club information and has become a “virtual meeting place” for students, Duncan said. “We’re having to get really creative on ways to keep everyone connected,” Duncan said. Duncan said usually the entire club, which has over 100 students, would also have a meeting every week, but those meetings have been cancelled since the organization isn’t doing any planning or a club vote. Duncan started her position as SGA president with a virtual election last spring, which was conducted using a Google form. “There downsides to virtual learning, but big picture, I know this is what has to be done,” Duncan said.
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