ATLANTA - Hundreds of neighbors voiced concerns about the possibility of Whitefoord Elementary in the Edgewood neighborhood closing its doors for good.
Atlanta Public Schools said its proposal in the Jackson Cluster to close one school and merge two others will address the issue of underenrolled schools in the district.
The school currently has 272 children, though its capacity could hold hundreds more.
Benteen and D.H. Stanton Schools would also merge into one.
"We have elementary schools that are, at best, 50 percent utilization.They were built for 600, 700 kids. We have 300 or less," Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said, explaining the predicament of underenrolled schools plaguing the Jackson Cluster.
The children at Whitefoord Elementary would either attend Toomer Elementary in Kirkwood or Burgess-Peterson Academy in East Atlanta, a mile to a mile and a half, respectively, from the school.
Superintendent Carstarphen told FOX 5 the school closure would allow Whitefoord students access to more academic programs and recreational activities, as a larger school population would provide more funding for Toomer and Burgess-Peterson.
Other parents had concerns over the impact of the move on the neighborhood and the children's education.
"It's bad for the neighborhood in general," said one mother, and neighbor, Ms. Carrington, who hopes to have her youngest attend Whitefoord soon. "We need the school because of all the kids," she said, pointing to all the new housing and development in the area.
The potential school closure could come at a time when the community in Southeast Atlanta is budding with revitalization, as developers add more homes, condos and renovate dilapidated buildings.
"I love this school. I don't see anything wrong with it, or the teachers," said grandfather Earl Carter, who takes his granddaughter to school and said he appreciates the academic strides the school has made with a smaller school population.
A number of parents voiced similar concerns at a public hearing at the school, and addressed the possibility of a farther walk for their children, or a longer bus route.
Any child attending Atlanta Public Schools can be transported by bus if they live more than a mile from home.
A final public hearing will be held March 1 at Benteen Elementary. The APS Board will vote on the issue March 6.