DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — After students called out Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County for unsanitary conditions, the board voted to renovate the facility Monday. However, they rejected a proposal to modernize the school, which board member Marshall Orson argued is needed for major upgrades to the nearly 100-year-old school.
A group of students produced a video inside the school to show mold on the walls, holes in the ceiling and bathrooms that are completely unusable.
"There’s a lot of rust; there’s a lot of water damage." Clare, a Druid Hills senior said. "There’s raw sewage leaks; there’s a really bad smell. The athletic rooms are the worst."
The video racked up several thousand views since it was posted last week, and it grabbed the attention of administrators. Superintendent Cheryl Watson Harris even sent a letter home commending the kids who made the video and putting the renovations back on the school board agenda.
In an interview with 11Alive's Hope Ford on Tuesday, the superintendent said their voices helped push for change.
"We know that there is a lot of frustration and concern amongst many people in the Druid Hills community," she said. "And that's why we want to make sure we unpack this information, put together an implementation plan that answers and addresses the concerns that they have and be able to stay in constant communication with the school community so that they're well aware of exactly what the impact of (the district's) decision and where we're going forward."
Before the meeting started, students and parents stood outside with signs urging school officials to take action. There were hours of discussion and public comment at the meeting.
"Druid Hills students do not feel safe in our building," one student said.
However, instead of approving the proposed plan that would have fixed many of the issues, the board decided to lump Druid Hills with several other schools in the district to get repairs.
"So that all of our children, not just the Druid Hills children, and God bless you for coming and raising your voices, everybody. We’re going to fix this thing," Deidre Pierce, District 3 school board member said.
The motion passed 5-2. Those opposed believe the school needs more than simple updates and that this modification doesn’t make Druid Hills safer.
"This decision was not made on principle, it was not made on what’s right," Orson said.
Orson argued some of the safety concerns can’t be addressed with simple repairs.
"There are signs on a pole that say don’t touch the pole electrical outlets because it may shock you." He said. "What other school do we have that has that situation in DeKalb County?"
With this move, the money for repairs will also spread between the schools in line for the upgrades.
Further discussion will be held about the funding and the timeline for the repairs.
During Tuesday's interview, the superintendent said the district will work to get everyone on the same page.
"At this point, I just want to make sure that we're able to take that information, unpack it, put together a clear communication plan and so that everyone is working with the same information," she said.