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THE FERNBANK PROTOTYPE: A regrettable loss of trees and green space

As the DeKalb County School System has advanced its prototype for the new Fernbank School, parents and neighbors have grown increasingly concerned about the plan’s awkward fit with the site and the loss of trees and green space that will ensue.

We have published below a letter from DHCA president Justin A. Critz to the DCSS Superintendent, Michael Thurmond. Please take a moment to read it.

The DHCA also urges you to attend two meetings at which the future of the Fernbank School will be addressed.

*SPLOST IV Meeting: Thursday, January 23, 6pm, Sam Moss Service Center, 1780 Montreal Road, Tucker.

*The Fernbank School Council and PTA Meeting: Postponed until further notice. Representatives of the DeKalb County School District will provide an update on the construction of the new Fernbank Elementary School. This will be an opportunity for the public to get information and provide feedback and comments. Childcare for school-aged children and pizza for the kids will be provided courtesy of Fernbank aftercare and the Fernbank Foundation.

12.19.13 Ltr to Michael Thurmond

Please also refer to earlier postings on our website, The Future of Fernbank School.

For more information, please contact Sydney Cleland at

  1. Denise garlow #

    I posted earlier and wanted to list a few concerns in the hope that they may be considered by those attending as I’m unable to be there tomorrow night.

    I realize you’re working on the large site issues now but wanted share my memories of what made Fernbank work so well in hopes that they won’t get lost in the larger site fight.

    3 simple things I’d like the new school to have:
    – fresh air and sunshine inside the building. I noticed in an earlier post that it was mentioned that the new gym will be air conditioned. This made me question weather we were getting a sealed and tinted elementary school. I really feel strongly that teachers should be able to open windows and children should be able to smell the air and hear the birds. Many buildings on the architects site looked hermetically sealed. It would be unfortunate if Fernbank became an efficient, office park like building.

    – the school district plan looks optimized for bus and driver drop off. Is consideration being given to identifying a walkers dismissal area where neighborhood parents can meet and wait together? Also, with hectic parent schedules, if parking isn’t easy, parents are likely to just drop the child off with their birthday cupcakes instead of going inside with their child. This tiny behavioral detail adds up over time and the school’s role of bringing parents, teachers and caregivers together in casual and spontaneous ways diminishes.

    – lastly, if I heard correctly Fernbank will be much larger in size and number of students. This begs the question…how are we going to manage double the number of volunteers and parent visits? The temptation when things get big is to limit access. With that many involved parents, I hope the new plans will have a room off the lobby for volunteers and parents to check in, stowe their belongings and supplies and have planning meetings. It would be hard to imagine that the front office would be able to handle double the number of parents. I’d like to see the new building floor plan be designed to accomodate the same level of parent involvement that makes Fernbank special-even with an expanded student population.

    Ps I hope they don’t run a row of big lights down the bus turnaround lane. This will shine through to those families living on Artwood.

  2. Maria Ribeiro #

    Please plan to attend the Public Meeting this Tuesday 1/28 at 7PM at 3131 Old Rockbridge Road, Avondale Estates.
    We need a quick resolution to keep as much green as possible as the residents proposal. Once the trees are gone, there is no way back.

  3. Denise Garlow #

    I was very concerned by what I saw on the DHCA site but researched it a bit further and found the project architects website. I am encouraged by the architectural firm’s portfolio of schools.

    It looks like most of them were built on flat suburban style building sites but their Level Creek Elementary school is built into a slope. It turned out beautifully.

    I wish we had better visuals to review. Does anyone have the architects CAD renderings? Will we see those at the meeting on the 28th?

    • Gene Barger #

      Good questions Denise.The Fernbank Council is supposed to be serving as the communication liaison between the school and the community and to my knowledge, this is the first community meeting ever scheduled. Hopefully they will provide such information. I would bet that the Level Creek Elementary School is not a prototype design, which is the essence of our problem. The present design would look great on the site of Westchester Elementary and have fewer environmental impact problems but if you try to fit that very same design onto the Fernbank site, it’s a totally different story (see Jason Moss’ Alternative “Green” Plan). Without some needed tweaks, the present plan becomes a train wreck and I suspect is actually in violation of the school system’s own guidelines for environmental impact and playground space.

  4. Gene Barger #

    Wonderful letter from DHCA President Justin Critz to Michael Thurmond. I would encourage everyone who is seeking more information to read the previous posts on Fernbank School and the various comments. The proposed Alternative Design is a “no brainer” once you consider all of the facts and what a negative impact this current design will have on the environment and student life including safety. Both the county and its school system have embraced “Green” design and construction philosophies but appear willing to make an exception in Fernbank’s case. Without your engagement, that beautiful old growth forest than adorns the campus will be gone forever.


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