The urbanization of Milton High School

Tonight will be the final public meeting held by the Fulton County Board of Education about the new high school redistricting in North Fulton county. As parents gather for their last opportunity to voice their concerns about the proposed plan I would like to point out something that may not be obvious to the casual observer.

The new school district proposed for Milton High School encompasses the recently approved MetLife mixed use project and most of the area being slated by the City of Alpharetta for high density urbanization. Below is the newly proposed redistricting map for Milton High School:

Now compare the new Milton School district with the map below which is what the Community Development Department of Alpharetta is proposing in their new land use plan:

The areas in color are locations that the city of Alpharetta want to build out as high density mixed use projects and it covers much of the southernmost portion of the proposed Milton High School District .

So as parents of Milton High School students attend the meeting tonight they should be aware that the city is proposing thousands of apartments or condos be built in what would be their children’s new school district. Unfortunately it appears that neither the Fulton County Board of Education nor the City of Alpharetta care about that fact.

16 thoughts on “The urbanization of Milton High School

  1. Jim, you don’t say what you believe the effects of this are, so I have to ask. Is “urbanization” a bad thing? I’m not sure what you’re implying with that label. What does it mean if a student attending any school lives in a condo, townhome or apartement rather than an expensive home in a subdivision?

    Or is your concern potential overcrowding in the next 5 years when some or all of these developments will be completed?

    And finally, where do you think these student condo / apartment dwellers should go to school?

  2. Parents attending tonight should also be aware that the city of Alpharetta has adopted a housing policy (also included in the same Comprehensive Plan) stating that 85% of the city’s housing should be “For Sale” housing and 15% should be “For Rent” housing. At the present time that ratio is 75/25, so the likelihood of any significant apartment construction in Alpharetta is remote for many years to come.

    Note also that the MetLife project that is referenced was approved with no apartments.

    Even the most liberal projections of impact on the schools from the condos approved in the MetLife project indicate that approximately 99 school age children would be projected to live in the development. Personally, I think that number is wildly high, but I’ll take it at face value. Divide that out by K-12 and you get about 7.5 kids per grade level. That gives you 30 kids at Milton High School — worst case — or about the same impact as a 12-home single family subdivison.

    The sky is falling.

  3. Oops…messed up on the math at the end. Even if you assume one high schooler per household, that would be about 30 homes.

  4. Mike & Bob –

    Maybe you missed my earlier post on the effect of high density mixed use on the schools of Reston Virginia here:

    Alpharetta’s current mix of single family homes and multifamily developments provide a unique environment which is conducive to raising families. That is the reason our community has outstanding public schools which attract people from all over the world.

    I am disappointed that neither of you seem to care Alpharetta is destroying that delicate balance.

  5. Mr. Kennedy, as an elected official your sarcasm, e.g., “the sky is falling,” is not only unprofessional, but appears as a perposeful attempt to derride any opposition. The citizens of Alpharetta and Milton have every right to be concerned about the direction our City Council is forcing, and as such, have the right to express their concerns to the ELECTED officials. I’ve read several posts, emails, etc., written by you, most of which conveniently ignore facts you wish weren’t there OR slightly skew the facts according to the current Council agenda. Things are NOT exactly as your present them, Councilman, and THAT is cause for concern.

  6. Ellen,

    Please accept my apologies. I would certainly welcome input about any incorrect facts that I may have put out in my posts and be more than happy to admit my mistake.

  7. The “for sale” vs “for rent” designation only applies when the property is being built. Members of the Council were concerned that Peridot’s condos could be converted to rentals in high numbers. I share that concern. There is little the city can do to stop it. Nevertheless the Council and Mr Kennedy approved the development with much enthusiasm.

    And for what it is worth, I appreciate that Mr Kennedy comments in the various online communities, snarky or not. I wish more of his colleagues would as well.

  8. I also appreciate knowing right where a politician stands. I don’t like “declines to comment” or a politician who says one thing and does another. There is something to be said for frankness, even though I may disagree.

  9. Jim,

    I’m still not convinced that urbanization will bring down schools in N.Fulton. There are demographic trends of affluence here that will continue for a long time regardless of whether there are higher density housing options. There are already scores of large apt complexes scattered throughout N.Fulton and the kids that live there already attend these schools. Add to that the fact that newer development is pricier and attracts a ‘better’ buyer or renter coupled with Mike Kennedy’s calculations of the real impact of students/grade level and we’re not talking about a significant impact.

    I’ll give you the Reston school point but i’ll state again that Reston was not used to point out how density or smart growth would impact schools. It was used as an answer to a question unrelated to schools. If I had been asked ‘where does smart growth/urbanization exist alongside high quality schools?,’ I would have answered differently.

    if you are looking for an example of an area that has ‘urbanized’ while still maintaining high quality schools, take a look at Montgomery County, MD and Fairfax County, VA (Reston is in this county but is it’s own school dist). On a side note, GreatSchools org is great but it’s not the only source for school ratings. Neighborhood Scout has Reston scoring noticeably higher than N.Fulton (I’m not sure I believe that either). Newsweek’s annual ratings of high schools had 5 of N.Fulton’s schools in the top 500 with the highest ranking being Milton at 318 with an average rating of 382. Looking at my other examples, Montgomery County placed 13 of its 25 high schools in the top 500. They have seven schools in the top 100 and an overall average ranking of 167. Of those, 10 were within 3 miles of a transit stop. Fairfax County, which is a very large but good school district has 22 high schools and placed 16 in the top 500. Most of these are within 5 miles of a transit stop. I want to point out that many of DC’s Metro stops have density built around them in a gridded pattern that encourages walkability and mixed-use development similar to MetLife’s proposal and the North Point LCI and MARTA studies.

    Another thing to consider is this, most urbanization that has occurred in the past 10-15 years has been done in areas where large tracts of real estate could be purchased cheaply. These are precisely the spots where school quality would be low. It doesn’t turn around over night just because a shiny new development went up. Looking at the examples of Montgomery and Fairfax Counties confirms that as smarter, higher density development moves into an affluent area (N.Fulton), schools can still maintain high standards of quality.

    MetLife, Prospect Park, Windward Mill and whatever happens at Holcomb Br & 400 are not the harbingers of poor education in N.Fulton nor will they be the destroyers of privacy, quality of life or the ability to raise a family in a nice town.

    • Michael- Thank you for taking the time to write a thoughtful reply. I am familiar with the Virginia and Maryland areas you mention and I don’t think the points you make above are inconsistent with the points I have previously made. You use county information and though I don’t have the time to confirm your data it doesn’t sound unreasonable. The problem is that you rely on countywide data.

      I have lived in both Fairfax, VA and Montgomery County, MD and neither has urban densities throughout the county. They have density packed in around corridors and the schools in those corridors are the ones that are bad. In that way it is simialr to what is planned for North Fulton. If you look at the Land Use Plan being proposed by the City of Alpharetta and compare it to the new redistricting map being proposed by the Fulton County Board of Education you will see that only three high schools would be affected by the density at Holcomb Bridge, MetLife, Prospect Park & Windward Parkway. Those schools are Centennial, Milton and Alpharetta. The new Bethany Bend, Roswell HS, Johns Creek, Chattahoochee and Northview would be completely unaffected. Similarly, the densification of Marietta has not affected the outstanding schools in East Cobb.

      Over the years I have searched high and low for data to either support or disprove my claim that dense urbanization will negatively impact our great public schools and can’t find any. In fact, I find the lack of research conspicuously absent given the billions of dollars spent by the federal government and developers to promote so called “smart growth”. If you find any such research please let me know.

      • I would also add that the problem is not always immediately seen. But what about after those condos and apartments age?

        It may also be a little harder to detect in high schools since they draw from a broader area, but check around the local elementary schools and you will see the effects that will eventually trickle up. Look at Esther Jackson ES in Roswell or Manning Oaks ES in Alpharetta.

        Someone contacted me with concern over the density in this area. You see, she had recently moved from the Martins Landing development to Alpharetta to get away from a ruined school. What used to be beautiful age-restricted condos turned into subsidized apartments over the years. They specifically moved to Alpharetta to get away from that and imagine her outrage to learn that it beckons at her back door again.

        It saddens me that we don’t seem to have the leadership to stand up for our community. I do not know if it is downward political pressure, a yearning for federal dollars, hawking for campaign contributions, or some other corruption but it seems that our local politics are a microcosm of what we see going on at the national level. Labels (democrat, republican, conservative) don’t seem to matter at all. (I am absolutely OUTRAGED at your latest story about Penn Hodge and Brandon Beach.)

  10. Jim, That research is definitely difficult to find. If I run across any either way, I’ll let you know. I agree that it’s hard to compare since it’s county data. I still have to point out that some of the best schools in Montgomery county are very close to a moderate level of density (not Midtown-esque) and they seem to be doing pretty well. (Specifically, Walt Whitman HS and Bethesda-Chevy Chase in Bethesda)

    Kim, I lived right next to Manning Oaks for 5 years and I agree that the school had trouble. However, It’s not the density… It’s the social issues that arise from neighborhoods being allowed to deteriorate. That’s a community problem not a design problem. You can look at any city in the US and find early garden suburbs that were fantastic neighborhoods 50-60 years ago that have decayed over time. A lot of these suburbs in their era were the Alpharettas and Roswells of our time. Many were great places to live with great schools. What happened to them is precisely what happens to today’s deteriorating school districts across the nation… This deterioration is not dependent on density (in the way it is built today) or whether a building is single family, multi family or mixed us.. it’s dependent on the character of the people who live in the neighborhood. My take is that social issues contribute to quality of life and school degradation… how we build our environment can impact those as well but it is not the primary driver here..

    • Michael, I agree with you regarding the character of the people, but MOES does draw heavily from the Henderson Lakes area which *is* high-density. Once there is a critical mass of a bad element, it seems to spread like gangrene w/ a domino effect. Bad company corrupts good morals.

  11. Pingback: Urbanization of Alpharetta Continues | Alpharetta's GA Jim

  12. Pingback: The Fork in the Road, Six Years Later | Alpharetta's GA Jim

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