It's happening more and more. People I don't know come up to me and ask me, not about sustainability, and not about community gardens, but about , especially with all the DeKalb County School System chaos of the last few years. They almost whisper their questions. I hear your daughter goes there. It's out-of-county, isn't it? Why did you make that decision? What do you think of it?
Here is my answer. My older daughter had a terrific experience at both and . Heavily into the arts, however, she applied and was accepted at DeKalb School of the Arts (DSA). Fifty students in a grade. Less than 300 in the entire school. Consistently at or near the top in "scores" for the state.
She went to DSA in 8th grade (it runs 8th through 12th), and faced a little quandary because she already had half of 8th grade math due to the introduction of that advanced accelerated math option when she was in 7th grade at Peachtree. I advocated for her to be in 9th grade math and just hustle to catch up, and this ended up being a critical move. When DSA moved to Avondale and this school option became, shall we say, no longer sustainable (she was already getting up at 5 a.m. and taking two buses to go to the original location on N. Druid Hills Road, and the new location would have complicated logistics even more as it was farther away and transportation was cut), we looked into all other options. We didn't know about North Springs having the only dual magnet program in the state (science/math and the arts) prior to this (nor that it was only four miles from our house), and the fact that she was now a year ahead in math (along with other requirements) made her eligible.
I see passion at North Springs for both academic and the arts. I witnessed this when I chaperoned one night at the school recently during a voluntary 36-hour weekend lock-in where 75 students worked in teams on global applied mathematics challenges (although it was a bit of a shocker to this early-to-bed mom that I was required to stay up all night). Regarding the arts, from The Producers to Hairspray to Project Dance and every other arts performance and exhibit in between, I have been nothing short of blown away and have found every teacher and student involved with the arts magnet to take "pushing the envelope" and professionalism as their personal challenges.
The production opening this weekend, however, takes the cake. Titled Metamorphoses, it is a modern telling of ten Greek myths revolving around an onstage pool built specifically for the show, with seating not in the 500-fixed-seat theater house but rather on risers around this pool right on the stage (which limits tickets to only about 250 per show). The characters are in and out of the pool throughout the show (as shown in this publicity photo of my daughter's fellow cast member, Cara Fortuna, taken by Cloud 8 Photo.com), with a number of them appearing to dissolve in the water. I have no idea how all this is going to happen--the show is filled with terrific challenges for the arts magnet's tech students--but I do know that my daughter has taken every beach towel from our home and has an inordinate amount of sopping wet laundry that she is drying each night at midnight, it seems. (And, for the record, one of her characters is "Hunger," which is sort of funny considering I just published a book titled Food for My Daughters).
I'm telling you all this for a reason. If you want to get a "vibe" for a school, to feel the energy, and to see what the students are encouraged to achieve (and realize just how close this school is to Dunwoody), I suggest you go and see it in action. And I can think of no better showcase opportunity than the upcoming performances of Metamorphoses. You can order tickets here. You may even find you have your own metamorphosis regarding the school you consider for your child. (If so, please note that the application deadline for 2012/2013 is January 30.)