Parents outraged by closure of Thomasville Heights Elementary School

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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) — Dozens of parents and education advocates expressed frustration to the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education on Monday about the upcoming closure of Thomasville Heights Elementary School.

“Please don’t let’s close another black school in the community so quickly,” said Sharon Gaston, whose granddaughter is a student at the Southeast Atlanta school.

Many said this shutdown would be especially difficult for at-risk, low-income people.

“Please don’t be so quick to close another black school in the community,” another speaker said during the public hearing at district headquarters on Monday.

The meeting was the first of three public hearings surrounding the closure of Thomasville Heights Elementary.

Atlanta Public Schools made the announcement after a judge ruled a nearby apartment complex was condemned.

School officials say 75% of Thomasville Heights students live in Forest Cove apartments, which are expected to be demolished by September.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for Mayor Andre Dickens said the city, working with the apartment landlord, had expedited residents’ moves through July 15.

The spokesperson added that the accelerated schedule was set to ease the transition for rezoned students.

According to a city spokesperson, relocated residents will continue to receive subsidized rent through housing assistance payments through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The school district said there would be two more public comment periods regarding Thomasville Heights Elementary School on May 9 and June 6.

While officials said Thomasville Heights Elementary School and students would move to Slater Elementary School, the APS school board did not vote on the move.

“The saddest thing about it is that the deal is already done,” said Kimberly Jones, an education advocate who spoke out in favor of keeping Thomasville Heights Elementary School.

“And now we’re here a day late and a dollar short trying to figure out what to do with the families and this community and for this school and it’s truly shameful,” Jones said.

Purpose Built Schools, a third-party company, has partnered with Atlanta Public Schools and has operated Thomasville Heights Elementary School since 2016.

“The forced closure of Thomasville was the outcome we were all trying to avoid. Before the pandemic, Thomasville was one of the most improved schools in Georgia,” said Dr. Nikkita Warfield, director of studies.

From 2016 to 2019 at Thomasville Heights, non-school suspensions decreased by 48%, proficiency scores for all subjects increased by 9%, and its college readiness scores increased by 15.5 points.

After the public hearing, a spokesperson for Purpose Built Schools made this statement:

“The Atlanta Specialty Schools and APS have worked hard over the past two years to avoid the temporary closure of Thomasville Heights Elementary. We have done everything in our power to avoid this outcome. Prior to the pandemic, THES had made significant gains since Purpose Built Schools Atlanta began partnering with the school in 2016. It is a huge loss to be forced to close after all the great strides made by students. Despite recent challenges, we are moving forward and planning for next year and know that our schools will be stronger and better than ever.

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