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State school superintendent issues scathing letter on conditions at Druid Hills High

Last week, the school board voted to lump the school with others for repairs rather than fixing immediate issues students and staff are facing now.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Editors note: The video above is from previous reporting; DeKalb County works to fix run-down schools in district.

Georgia's school superintendent wrote a letter on Monday to DeKalb County Board of Education members scolding them for not taking swift action to improve conditions at Druid Hills High School. 

"I will not recommend DeKalb County Schools’ facilities plan for State Board of Education approval while these fundamental issues and concerns remain," Richard Woods, the state school superintendent, said. "DeKalb’s facilities plan will not move forward in its current form."

RELATED: Mold, sewage leak and more | Druid Hills High School students expose toxic conditions, get results

Woods requested a site visit from the Georgia Department of Education’s facilities team and said they were "shown several examples of issues from the students’ video footage being addressed."

Videos from students have gone viral online over the past few weeks, showing bathrooms that are unusable and mold on school walls, halls and ceilings. 

"I question why these issues were only addressed after they were raised by students – rather than being identified and promptly addressed by the adults responsible for them," Woods said. 

The letter disagrees with the recent board decision to lump Druid Hills High School with other schools for repairs rather than fixing immediate issues students and staff face now. 

RELATED: Vote to make repairs at Druid Hills High School still comes with opposition

All students in DeKalb County Schools, Woods said, have "a right to functioning bathrooms; air-conditioned and heated classrooms; spaces free of mildew, mold, and flooding; and safe conditions to learn." 

The county cites a lack of funding, but Woods said they lack "leadership, responsibility, and urgency regarding this core responsibility of DeKalb County Schools: providing safe and fully functioning facilities."

According to the state superintendent, schools can use federal COVID-19 relief funds for facilities improvements, particularly clean and safe buildings for students and teachers. 

The letter said DeKalb County had received over $480 million in ESSER relief funds, and even after taking into account austerity cuts, DeKalb netted more than $440 million.  

"Much of this remains unspent," Woods said. 

The district's other options to improve Druid Hills High School include DeKalb's FY23 Capital Outlay Application, which adds $1.4 million in state funds that the district can reimburse for improvements.

The superintendent said the county must "restore trust" within the community and invest in its facilities.  

"And utilize local, state, and federal funding to make historic investments – displaying the same courage and initiative as the students of Druid Hills High," Woods said.

>> Read the full letter below

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