Apr 26, 2022 - News

State: DeKalb's handling of Druid Hills High School condition “unacceptable”

Druid Hills HS protest sign
Students and parents protested April 18 outside DeKalb County School District's central office. Photo: Dean Hesse/Decaturish

Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods is criticizing the DeKalb County Board of Education over how it addressed the appalling conditions at Druid Hills High School.

Catch up quick: The school, the oldest in the county, has been plagued with infrastructure issues that were highlighted in a video produced this month by students.

  • Some of those issues include sewage and drainage backups, leaking pipes, mold in ceilings and peeling paint, which were first reported by Decaturish.

What he's saying: Woods questioned why the district decided to address Druid Hills’ issues after they were raised by students “rather than being identified and promptly addressed by the adults responsible for them.”

  • “Of even greater concern, most of these fixes were solely cosmetic, and it was clear not only that significant issues with the facility remain, but that regular maintenance has been largely neglected,” he said in the letter written Monday. “This is unacceptable."

Go deeper: Read Woods’ full letter.

State of play: Board of Education members initially were set to consider a resolution to modernize the nearly 100-year-old school, but last week voted to broaden their approach and focus on the most serious issues at all of its schools.

DeKalb school board member Marshall Orson, who represents Druid Hills high, tells Axios that the state’s conclusion is in line with what students have said about the school.

  • He said the board’s action last week either disregards or makes optional the district’s Comprehensive Master Plan, which evaluates and makes improvement recommendations based on each school’s physical condition.

Between the lines: Woods also takes issue with the school board’s assertion that it doesn’t have cash necessary to address these problems. Instead, there’s a “lack of leadership, responsibility, and urgency” to make much-needed repairs on these buildings, the superintendent said.

  • The district has received more than $440 million in federal COVID relief funding, which Woods said has not been spent.
  • He also said Dekalb can apply to be reimbursed by the state for up to $1.4 million if it wanted to make improvements at Druid Hills.

The superintendent says he will not recommend that the district’s facility plan be approved by the State Board of Education in its current state.

  • However, the state Department of Education’s facilities team will work with the district to develop both short- and long-term plans to solve the district’s infrastructure issues.
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