Superintendent responds after students expose ‘disgusting’ conditions at Druid Hills High

Board members will reconsider a proposal to renovate Druid Hills High School during an April 18 meeting.
Board is set to meet to decide on Druid High School renovations
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 6:22 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Students and parents of one DeKalb County high school have created a video that shows what they consider to be “unacceptable conditions” at the school.

Lani Martz, whose daughter attends Druid Hills High School (DHHS), believes the campus looks beautiful from the outside, but the inside tells another story. Her daughter, Harley agrees.

“I love this school,” Harley said. “But I really want the inside of it to be just as comfortable and as beautiful as the outside.”

Videos taken by students and compiled by parents shows classrooms and hallways riddled with leaks and cracks. Claims of raw sewage pooling near lunch areas, the risk of electrocution due to dangerous wires and mold exposure are constant throughout the facility, part of which is nearly a century old.

“The conditions inside the school are disgusting,” Lani said. “They’re terrible. The damage is systemic at this point.”

DeKalb County Schools hired a firm that ranked Druid Hills High in the poor category, among others, and recommended the school undergo a $52 million renovation and modernization, as part of the district’s 10-year comprehensive plan. However, the school board removed DHHS from a resolution during its February meeting after some members questioned its priority over early learning centers.

“I think about when we talk about the disparities that is going on in this district, about our little boys and girls,” said Diijon DaCosta, who represent District 6, during the meeting. “They cannot read on grade point grade level. And that is not on this resolution to move forward.”

“It serves the most diverse population, and the conditions are just abominable,” Marshall Orson, who represents District 2 rebutted. “We don’t have a building in this situation. It’s a unicorn in terms of how old and how misused part of it is.”

Orson argued early learning center funding comes from a different source. The Druid Hills High renovation would come from E-SPLOST VI, a special sales tax extension approved by voters last November.

For families like the Martz, they believe major renovations need to happen now and want to see DHHS added to the priority renovation list.

“My sophomore will probably never see the inside of a new building,” said Lani. “This is for her little brothers. This is for the kids that live in the neighborhood that are in elementary school right now. Like these things need to happen now so that these kids will have a healthy and safe environment.”

DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris is working to assure the Druid Hills High community that the district hears their concerns about their building and will address the problem.

Watson-Harris sent the following letter to the Druid Hills High families, students and staff on April 13:

As stated in the superintendent’s letter, board members will reconsider a proposal to renovate Druid Hills High School as part of the E-SPLOST VI project list during an April 18 meeting. Parents and students are calling on volunteers to speak at the meeting and to also write every board meeting between now and then. You can learn more about their efforts by clicking here.