DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The DeKalb County School Board unanimously decided to make major improvements to Druid Hills High School during its virtual meeting Tuesday. A spokesperson for the district said the school board approved the resolution; the renovations are estimated at $50 million.
"The unanimous vote at the virtual meeting provides the necessary authorization for the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) to begin its work to renovate the school, which serves over 1,300 students in grades 9-12," the school district wrote in a release.
Back in April, a group of Druid Hills High School students exposed toxic conditions including mold, crumbling ceilings and a sewage leak a the school. Since then, more DeKalb County students have come forward about the alarming conditions at their schools.
After the video of the conditions surfaced, the state school superintendent issued a scathing letter in response to the conditions at Druid Hills High School. Just a day after state school superintendent Richard Woods scolded the county board members in the letter, DeKalb County Schools' then-Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris was terminated without notice leaving her "blindsided."
“Today’s vote is an important step in facing one of the many facilities needs across the district,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne S. Tinsley said. “Without a doubt, the conditions at Druid Hills High School illustrate the poor conditions in several of our facilities. Many of these issues are not new and highlight systemic, operational shortcomings that have persisted for far too long.”
The DeKalb County School District will start the procurement process and award design services by this fall. Then, the project will move on to the design phase. It's anticipated to take approximately a year with construction anticipated to begin in Spring 2024. The school district added that Druid Hills High School will remain open throughout renovations.
"Modernizing a school building means that the facility is brought up to the current standards for structure and environment. In this instance, the project will include significant renovations to make the existing facility like new," the school district added in a release.
The high school's enhancements will include state-of-the-art technology, upgraded plumbing, improved heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, advanced safety systems, a new roof, electrical upgrades, modern lighting conversions, superior acoustic designs and more, the school district said.
According to the school district, Druid Hills High was built in 1927 with additions in 1950, 1953, 1961, 1965 and 2010. The high school is estimated to be about 171,000 square ft.
Druid Hill High School was on the priority list for renovations in 2022, but the school board voted to take it off in February. Hundreds of pages of reports document crumbling buildings and worsening conditions after a district-wide assessment in 2020.
The district has been in the spotlight for weeks as concerns grew. In May, the Georgia Department of Education hired an adviser to work on the "systemic operations issues" within DeKalb County Schools. Dr. Tanzy Kilcrease will assess the district's current operations in order to make recommendations and monitor the progress for changes.
Tinsley said the district will continue to implement an "aggressive action plan to improve facilities and maintenance projects across the school system."
Tinsley added that she's looking forward to the partnership with Kilcrease to focus on short-term and long-term solutions for the school district. Kilcrease is set to begin working with the DeKalb County School District on June 1.
"My expectation is that by working together, families and staff will see improvements at DCSD facilities on the first day of school on August 8,” Dr. Tinsley said.