The main plank of the resolution before the Board to deny the Drew Charter High School is based on an often quoted number – 6,200 seat over-capacity in the high schools. In prior posts, I have questioned the relevancy of this number to the issue. Why? If it is appropriate to use the entire high school over-capacity issue in the Drew case, then it certainly should have been relevant when the decision was made to build the new North Atlanta High School. But you say that is ridiculous – North Atlanta is overcrowded and had to have more space. And you would be right in saying so – the 6,200 is absolutely irrelevant to the North Atlanta High School decision. The decision had to be made based on the number of seats available in the local area. And for the same reason, the 6,200 number has no place in the Drew decision – it is simply irrelevant misdirection and not germane to the decision at hand.
What is relevant is that Jackson High School has a capacity of 1508 and a current enrollment of approximately 900 or 59% of capacity. When the argument is framed with the right numbers, then a whole new set of questions arise that no one seems to have addressed. Even if the Drew charter is denied, where are the additional 600 students coming from to fill up Jackson? My sense is that you hear the same crickets chirping that I do. Clearly, denying the Drew the additional charter will do nothing to fill up seats at Jackson. But if Drew is granted the charter, will it increase the over-capacity problem at Jackson? The answer to this question is entirely in the hands of the APS Administration. Either they rise to the occasion and provide the best alternative offering or they retain oversight over a competitor that is more capable of delivering what the parents and students want.
If Jackson is better, then parents will gravitate there – if not, parents will go to the better alternative. So who wins if the charter is granted? In any reasonable outcome, the students and parents win as they will have additional choices and improved educational outcomes at either location. In addition, APS also wins by granting the charter. How? Either APS takes the steps required to improve its offering at Jackson (making the students winners as well) or APS becomes more cost efficient as it uses Drew as a proxy to deliver a high quality education to students in the Drew/Jackson area.
The 6,200 number is irrelevant and should be ignored and the focus should be on what are the best outcomes for all constituents. And when the relevant issues and questions are addressed, it is clear that the granting of the charter to Drew for a new high school is a win-win for students, parents, educators and the taxpayers!