By order of the state, the District of Georgia organizes the renovation of the school


Facing state demands to move forward, as well as public pressure after students produced a viral video showing widespread decay, a suburban Atlanta school board voted Tuesday for a $50 million overhaul at an aging high school after voting against it three times.

The DeKalb County School Board voted unanimously to renovate Druid Hills High School, media reported.

“I am proud to say today that we are in unison, that we want what is right for this district,” reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution according to board chairwoman Vickie Turner. “It’s quite refreshing that we’ve made this progress.”

The dispute over Druid Hills came to a head after students made a video about the poor conditions, including raw sewage, crumbling bathrooms and signs warning of possible electric shock around utilities in one room. But last month, the board rejected plans to overhaul the high school, voting instead to make minor repairs to all schools in the district.

Students at at least two other DeKalb high schools have since posted similar videos. The dispute has exacerbated racial and class tensions that often divide the district of 93,000 students between a wealthier white minority on its north end and a poorer black majority on the south end.

State Superintendent Richard Woods intervened in the dispute, saying the state would refuse to approve plans for the district’s facilities until it fixed the Druid Hills issues. Such a refusal would prevent the district from getting money for state facilities. Then the state appointed a special adviser to oversee system building upgrades and maintenance.

In the meantime, board members fired Cheryl Watson-Harris as superintendent, with Turner appearing to blame Watson-Harris for the poor conditions in a letter to Woods.

Tuesday’s vote adds Druid Hills to the district’s five-year building plan. The work, which will begin in September, will concern the roof, plumbing, heating and air conditioning. The district will pay for this using local sales tax levies.

The state has hired Tanzy Kilcrease, who is retiring from Bibb County Schools, to oversee DeKalb starting June 1. She told WABE-FM that she was going to assess conditions across the district.

One of Kilcrease’s responsibilities will be to ensure that DeKalb completes the repairs in its state corrective action plan, including some updates that must be completed by June 30.

The state Department of Education said Tuesday it would approve state facility funds for DeKalb as long as the district follows suit.

About 60% of the immediate needs identified in the plan have already been met, Acting Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley said Tuesday. She said a broken sewer line will be repaired by Friday, while roof repairs will be completed within two weeks. She also said the district is working to fix the heating, ventilation and air conditioning issues.

“It’s a collaboration,” Kilcrease said. “It’s a partnership. Our goal is for them to be successful in ensuring that we have standard quality facilities for all of our DeKalb County students.


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