Purpose Built Schools Leads Effort to Keep Kids in School

A group of stakeholders, organized by Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, is working swiftly to do something extraordinary:

Temporarily relocate 260+ low-income families in a coordinated manner so that their children can continue to attend their current neighborhood schools while a dilapidated housing development is rebuilt.

Forest Cove Apartments, the subsidized affordable housing development in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood of southeast Atlanta, must be rebuilt. Too many families are living in substandard housing, impacting their physical and emotional health. The developer and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have decided to rebuild it all at once, requiring all residents to relocate. Current plans indicate that renovations will take an estimated 22 months to complete.

For many years, Forest Cove residents and tenant organizers have advocated for improved safety and better maintenance. Their leadership and voice were–and continue to be–essential to determine the future of this community.

“Together, we can minimize the disruption that relocation during renovation will bring,” says Greg Giornelli, president and CEO of Purpose Built Schools.

A broad group of organizations, including the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, Enterprise Community Partners, The Millennia Companies, Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools, and Open Doors, is leading the effort, with the active support of additional partners.

“The goal is to make sure students can continue attending the neighborhood schools serving Forest Cove apartments during the redevelopment and relocation process,” says Giornelli. “This will provide stability to families and ensure the academic, social and emotional gains of these students are not lost while the Forest Cove housing development is transformed into a safe and dignified place to live.”

Beyond keeping open neighborhood schools, this effort will also limit disruptions for Forest Cove families, meaning they will have a greater likelihood of maintaining their employment and holding on to a sense of community.

“Without this effort it is almost certain that Thomasville Heights Elementary School would be temporarily closed, and the enrollment at Price Middle School would be significantly impacted,” continues Giornelli.

The Thomasville Heights neighborhood includes the lowest-income census tract in Georgia, and the surrounding schools have been the focus of an innovative partnership between Atlanta Public Schools and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, a core element of APS’s larger turnaround initiative.

The stakeholder group has brought creativity and compassion to a situation that could otherwise result in the displacement of hundreds of low-income families out of the City. The organizations of the stakeholder group each play an important role in the effort:
  • The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, which has supported numerous programs in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood, is a co-leader of the initiative and has convened a larger group of partners to address this complex issue.
  • Enterprise Community Partners is the country’s leading non-profit affordable housing developer and advocate, and its Southeast office is co-leader of this effort.
  • Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, through a partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, operates three schools impacted by the redevelopment of Forest Cove (Thomasville Heights Elementary, Price Middle and Carver STEAM Academy) and originally convened the stakeholders to help solve the challenge.
  • Atlanta Public Schools is actively supporting the process to ensure the schools remain open throughout the redevelopment and relocation process, maintaining educational continuity for students.
  • The Millennia Companies, a Cleveland-based housing developer that is purchasing Forest Cove apartments, has committed to redeveloping the property as a safe and affordable apartment community. Millennia is legally responsible for the relocation and return of current residents and recognizes the stability the schools provide its families.
  • Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, through a partnership with PBSA, has provided free housing-related legal representation to Forest Cove families for four years. Its work during this time has led to a nearly 1/3 reduction in transiency at Thomasville Heights Elementary School, among other benefits. In coordination with Millennia and PBSA, AVLF will assist residents throughout the entire relocation and return process. AVLF will provide dedicated employees to work closely with residents to navigate the temporary relocation process, educate tenants about their rights, and ensure the return of all families who choose to do so.
  • Open Doors is the Atlanta nonprofit that since 2013 has placed people experiencing homelessness into housing. Open Doors has well-established relationships with metro Atlanta’s apartment industry, making it uniquely situated to identify relocation options for Forest Cove residents. The current effort is the first time Open Doors will work outside its traditional mission of finding stable, supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness.

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