Children living at the Section 8 community make up the majority of Thomasville Heights Elementary School’s student body. But the 211 households that remain at the 396-unit complex will soon be scattered to other low-income apartments, after an Atlanta judge condemed Forest Cove in December — an order its owner, Millennia Housing Management, is appealing
Thomasville Heights Elementary, located at 1820 Henry Thomas Dr., will close at the end of the school year, and its students will be “temporarily rezoned” to T.H. Slater Elementary School, about three miles northeast, according to an announcement from Atlanta Public Schools (APS) on Feb. 26.
“The Forest Cove redevelopment will dramatically improve living conditions for residents and ultimately result in positive outcomes, and we are sensitive to the sudden nature of this situation,” APS superintendent Lisa Herring said in the announcement.
APS and Purpose Built Schools Atlanta will work with the city of Atlanta, Millennia, and other stakeholders to make sure the Forest Cove families are “well supported during the relocation process,” Herring added. Purpose Built Schools, a school management nonprofit, partners with APS to operate Thomasville Heights Elementary and three other district schools.
Millennia, which purchased Forest Cove from Global Ministries Foundation last April, has said tenants can return after its reconstruction. That could take years, however.
Purpose Built’s president, Greg Giornelli, said in the announcement that APS and the nonprofit expect to re-open Thomasville Heights Elementary within three years, when the apartments are rebuilt, according to a redevelopment plan’s timeframe.
Thomasville Heights Elementary “has served this neighborhood since 1971 and is the bedrock of an invaluably strong school-community connection,” Giornelli said.
The Atlanta Board of Education must approve the decision to close the elementary school and rezone the students to Slater Elementary. The board is expected to consider the matter at its April board meeting and make a decision by May.
In another development, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens last week issued an administrative order calling on the city’s chief operating officer, Jon Keen, to coordinate with the city planning department, Atlanta Housing, and Invest Atlanta to fast-track building a new low-income complex at the former Thomasville Heights public housing site, where 350 apartments neighboring Forest Cove were razed in 2010.
Once completed, the new apartments could accommodate the families being displaced during Forest Cove’s rehabilitation, officials have told Atlanta Civic Circle — but the city has not announced a timeline for the project.
Dickens also said last week that city leaders have identified 170 apartment units in Atlanta and are looking for more to temporarily rehouse Forest Cove’s remaining 211 families.
His office is using city funds to facilitate both the residents’ relocation and the housing project’s buildout.
The December condemnation order called for Millennia to relocate Forest Cove residents by March 1 and level the property by Sept. 22. The developer’s appeal, however, temporarily stayed the ruling.
“We are awaiting the decision on the appeal to determine next steps,” Millennia spokesperson Valerie Jerome told Atlanta Civic Circle in an email.