Thursday, April 19, 2018

DeKalb Plans for Cross Keys to Cross Buford Highway, Relocate to Former Briarcliff High Site

According to Reporter Newspapers, The DeKalb Board of Education earlier this week approved building a new Cross Keys High School at the former Briarcliff High School site on North Druid Hills Road.  The site was approved despite opposition from Marshall Orson, Stan Jester and James McMahan, the three board members closest to the site, who said traffic in the area would make it inaccessible for many on Buford Highway. 
Briarcliff High School in its heyday


Other potential sites included several unnamed apartment complexes, which would have been too expensive to purchase and would have displaced hundreds of students, the school district said.  The vote was 4-3, with Orson, Jester and McMahan voting no.  “Thousands live on the north and west side of I-85. We’d be pushing them through what has historically been ranked one of the ten worst transportation corridors in metro Atlanta,” Orson said. 

In 2006, real estate firm Sembler Co. offered to purchase the Briarcliff High property along with Adams Memorial Stadium and Kittredge Magnet School - 39 acres in total -  to build a large mixed-use development, similar to the firm's TOWN Brookhaven development on Peachtree Road. The Board of Education reportedly valued Sembler's offer at more than $60 million, which would be paid in the form of a land-swap and the construction of new buildings for all of the displaced schools. A perfect storm of the recession beginning in 2008 and local residents' protests over the proposed development ended Sembler's plans.  

The school district has allocated nearly $85 million in ESPLOST funding to build the new 2,500 seat school. The new school is needed to alleviate overcrowding at the current Cross Keys High, located at 1626 North Druid Hills Road, which like the former Briarcliff High School, opened in 1958.  In the years since its 1987 closure, the former Briarcliff High site has played host to a number of other educational and entertainment venues.  

The DeKalb School of the Arts and Open Campus High School operated in Briarcliff's buildings until 2009, when DSA moved back onto Avondale High School's campus and Open Campus moved to the new county office campus in Stone Mountain.  The Jim Cherry Teacher Center also operated in Briarcliff's buildings previously but is also now in Stone Mountain.  

Starting in 2010, the now cancelled MTV series Teen Wolf also filmed extensively on the Briarcliff High campus, renaming the school "Beacon Hills High School" for the show.  

One main objection to the Briarcliff site is that its location is too far for many students and is outside of Cross Keys’ current attendance zone.   The current Cross Keys is in area with an historically high Hispanic and immigrant population, where, according to Orson, residents "often have more difficulties with transportation, sometimes due to not having the legal status necessary to acquire a driver’s license."  

According to the Cross Keys website, "the student body is composed of 80% Hispanic, 11% black, 6% Asian, 1% white, and less than 1% other racial groups, including 2 or more races. The total composition of the student population excluding white not of Hispanic origin is 98.59%."  The school is said to be the most culturally diverse high school in the state, with students from 65 countries who speak 75 different languages. 

The Briarcliff site, a 26-acre property the district still owns, is located less than two miles south of Cross Keys High at 2415 North Druid Hills Road, across from Target and adjacent to Adams Stadium, another DeKalb County owned facility.  The school would be moving from within the City of Brookhaven to unincorporated DeKalb County.  

Although Briarcliff has long been a contemplated site for the new school, there were previously rumors the district was eyeing an apartment complex adjacent to Cross Keys High.  Construction is expected to begin in September 2019. The school is planned to be completely finished by June 2022, according to ESPLOST documents. 

The current Cross Keys High is set to become a 1,500- seat middle school in a $10 million project.  DeKalb has previously converted other former high schools to middle schools including Henderson Middle (formerly Henderson High) and Druid Hills Middle (formerly Shamrock Middle/High).

Given the new Cross Keys is not expected to be completed for 3+ years, hopefully DeKalb county can figure out their bus driver compensation program to the point where drivers are not protesting by leaving thousands of students without transportation to and from school.  

Are you pleased by the plan to relocate Cross Keys High School to the former Briarcliff High School site?  If not here, where should Cross Keys have been built?  Are you a Briarcliff High grad?  What are your fondest memories of the school?

Please share your thoughts below.  

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a very bad decision. The traffic on North Druid Hills is already bad, and will get worse with the Children's Hospital construction and new apartments in Executive Park. This will elevate it to nightmare levels.

Anonymous said...

You do not need 39 acres to build a school. They could have combined 2 car lots of Buford highway or Doraville and left the apartments alone and sold the Briarcliff for 60 million dollars. Fixed all kinds of issues in one swoop

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible idea. Traffic is horrible on N. Druid Hills Road already, and it's going to get even worse with all of the CHOA traffic!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 2:32 - that's not true. DeKalb needs extra acreage when they build brand new schools (or construct additions) so they can immediately install the trailers on all four sides to accommodate all the students when they grossly underestimate the census.

Laurie Dowden said...

I graduated from Briarcliff in 1984. We went from 8th to 12 grade. This is a long time to be in high school, usually you go for 3 to 4 years not 5. So a lot of us spent most of our teen years with the same people. It was a nice small school so the class sizes were really nice and you knew a lot of people. I remember going to football games and homecoming dances and just having a really good time with friends. It's sad not having an alma mater anymore to drive by and reflect like a lot of other people do but hopefully the new kids coming in will have just as good of a Time as the graduates of Briarcliff High School. I just hope that they put some kind of plaque or something to show what had come before.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on the traffic. It's difficult to get anywhere in that area in the afternoon as of now. I'm dreading how it'll look in three years.

Anonymous said...

This decision earns a D- at best. Kudos to the three who voted against the other numb-skulls. The Board of Education needs an education.

fsg said...

This isn't a great decision, but there are no alternatives that are any better. In the two years the boards been working on this, nobody's come up with a credible alternative; just objections to doing anything.

The best alternative would have been buying the apartment complexes around the current CKHS, but the presence of those apartment complexes are a good deal of the reason why the new school is needed. Something similar going on with the new elementary school in Doraville; an apartment complex had to be bought and torn down to make room for it - suddenly you are relieving population pressure by building the school for the housing you just tore down.

The real problem is that redistricting is going to have to follow - and the Lakeside district is not going to want to split up. That will be painful.

Anonymous said...

@5:25 LOL so true!

Anonymous said...

FSG makes a great point about the redistricting - that is going to be a war. Although I would think that most of the redistricting will come from Druid Hills instead of Lakeside. I don't really know but I'm guessing Sagamore still partially feeds into Druid Hills and partially into Lakeside.

I attended Briarcliff until 1987 when it closed. I was then shipped over to Druid Hills my last two years even though it was twice as far from our house as Lakeside.

I still live in DeKalb but we send our kids to private school because DeKalb can't seem to do anything right.

Anonymous said...

I need to move to Wyoming. All this diversity got this country going in the crapper. 1% white at a school? Jeez.

annon said...

@Anon 5:30
We wish you would. We are ashamed of you.

Anonymous said...

As a graduate of Briarcliff High School, I don't see why they can't name it Braircliff instead of Cross Keys.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:30 and @ 1:53 are the same commenter trying to stir the racist pot. No one listens to you liberal crisis actors anymore so just go away.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, keep Briarcliff as name.

Anonymous said...

1967 graduate, keep name as Briarcliff

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