Should Avondale Estates Purchase the Old Avondale High Campus?

It's been a little more than two years since the DeKalb County School District shuttered Avondale High School.

The school, which was built in 1954, shuttered in May 2011, a casualty of dwindling enrollment and a redistricting of DeKalb schools.

Rather than let it languish, Avondale Estates Mayor Ed Rieker proposes the city purchase the campus at 1192 Clarendon Ave.

It's not a new request; as early as last year, the city, in a series of meetings with school district officials, expressed its desire for the property.

But it's received renewed attention with discussions swirling that a private school may have designs on the old Avondale High campus, too.

That led Rieker to send a letter Interim School Superintendent Michael Thurmond reiterating the city's desire for the property.

A district spokesman did not have an immediate comment, but here is Rieker's letter:

Superintendent Thurman,

This letter is to reaffirm the desire of the City of Avondale Estates to purchase, from the DeKalb County School District (DCSD), the Avondale High School properties that were listed as surplus on November 5th of 2012. As you are aware, during this past year the City of Avondale Estates has held numerous meetings with DCSD management and staff regarding these properties and made several offers to purchase the properties from the DCSD.

Recently we have been made aware of activity by a private school to purchase one of the parcels that is included in the properties that have been labeled as surplus by the DCSD.

While it may be expected that others may be interested in acquiring these properties, we would respectfully request that you and your staff adhere to DCSD Policy in the disposal of these properties. Per that policy, the City of Avondale Estates is notifying you and the DCSD Board that we are aware of the surplus status of the properties and further that we are willing to purchase the properties. This desire and willingness to purchase these properties has been expressed to you and your staff on numerous occasions and we have made several specific offers to purchase the properties.

We would be happy to appear before the DCSD Board to reiterate our offer to purchase these properties and to reconfirm that a purchase by the City of Avondale Estates would keep these properties for the use of the public.

DCSD policy, DeKalb County Policy and Georgia state law all support the concept and practice that selling surplus DCSD property to governmental entities and municipalities is in the best interests of the community and has a higher priority than selling the same property to private groups.

The purchase of the property by the City of Avondale Estates will ensure that these DCSD properties, that were acquired and maintained by the expenditure of local tax dollars, would remain in service to the public via its purchase by the City of Avondale Estates. If they are sold to a private group they would no longer be available for public use.

The City of Avondale Estates has an immediate need for expanding our green space and would immediately utilize the now underutilized sports fields located across from the Avondale High School buildings. We would revitalize this property by immediately creating and implementing a master plan that would include a dog park, large playing fields for organized sports, a community garden and other outdoor recreational needs.  All would be welcome at this public park.

We have made specific proposals to DCSD management regarding the acquisition of the school buildings and have offered to lease back, at no cost to DCSD, all or part of the buildings so that over the next several years DCSD may continue to use various portions of the buildings as its needs dictate while it transitions programs within the DCSD system.

We continue to seek a collaborative, positive outcome between our two governmental agencies in this matter.  It is our hope that you, your team and the DCSD Board will agree with us that working together we may find a path that allows for the purchase of these proprieties by our community which would ensure their continued use for the public good by all and create a beneficial economic outcome for the DCSD and DeKalb County citizens.

The City of Avondale Estates looks forward to moving ahead with the DeKalb County School District to complete a transaction that is in the best interest of the community and our respective governmental agencies. Please let me know if I may be of service.

Ed Rieker
Mayor, City of Avondale Estates
Avondale's interest in the high school property coincides with its ongoing review of its master plan for its downtown as well as an influx of pockets of redevelopment.

And with an identified need and use for the facilities, the city would avoid the the possibility having school buildings falling into disrepair.

In Atlanta, for example, the Atlanta Public Schools have a number of shuttered properties that are in various states of deterioration.

One of its closed grammar schools in the East Atlanta neighborhood, which was recently sold to a developer with plans for an apartment conversion, was in such bad shape, homeless people camped inside, one of the floors was structurally unsound and at least one tree was growing inside, thanks to a hole in the roof.

What do you think of Avondale Estates' desire to purchase the old Avondale High School?
Melissa O'Shields December 10, 2013 at 06:49 PM
I hear you Juan. I've lived through it too. I believe things will change now, so in the words of Bob Dylan..... Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won't come again And don't speak too soon For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin' For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they are a-changin'.
Julie Feely December 11, 2013 at 12:44 PM
The public record, available on the DeKalb Board of Education (BOE) website, clearly reflects that the Avondale High School, along with several other schools, was determined to be "surplus" during the November 5 2012 BOE meeting and the meeting minutes approved on Dec 2 2012. https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=4054&AID=440464&MID=23961 I cannot locate information in the DeKalb BOE records documenting that a different (public) decision has now been made by the BOE (a decision not to sell, or perhaps a decision to repurpose the building for use by the school system). Perhaps the author of the article could investigate this further?
Julie Feely December 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Here is the link to the February 2013 public meeting legal announcement regarding the disposition of various school facilities, and movement of the students, in the DeKalb school system. http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/splost-iv/dcsd-phase-out-champion-notice.pdf
Julie Feely December 11, 2013 at 01:19 PM
I see that the original version of this article has been revised to remove the statement by Quinn Hudson that stated, incorrectly, that the Avondale High School had note been listed as surplus and available for sale. The Patch should consider clearly indicating in the article header that the article has been revised for accuracy. The links I provided above indicate that Mr. Hudson's statement (pasted below from the original Patch article) was wrong. 'But according to district spokesman Quinn Hudson, the property is not listed as a surplus school site that could be sold. "The Board has not approved the Avondale property as surplus," Hudson wrote in an e-mail to Decatur-Avondale Estates Patch.'


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