Not just close. Demolish.
Dallas ISD could demolish several elementary schools in Oak Cliff and replace them with a few “mega elementary” schools.
It’s an unfunded, expensive plan that so far is drawing protest from students, parents and teachers of the affected schools. The DISD trustee who represents our neighborhood, Audrey Pinkerton, is holding town-hall meetings at every school affected in her district. And she is asking community members to attend an Oct. 18 DISD board meeting to communicate their position.
Twelve of the schools proposed for demolition are in Oak Cliff between Interstate 30 and Interstate 45. More than 75 percent of the proposed demolitions — 15 of 21 — are south of Interstate 30.
Not accounting for interest on the $983.8 million loan to build the new schools, it would take almost 42 years for the cost saving of nearly $22.8 million in annual costs to catch up with the price of building new schools.
The district expects to profit $45 million from the sale of land where they demolish schools. Schools on the demolish list were chosen based on a formula that accounts for age, student population and how much could be saved by consolidating the school with others.
At Reagan Elementary last week, students made protest signs as a way to stand up for their school.
The plan calls to demolish that school in the Bishop Arts area as well as Hogg Elementary near Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Peeler Elementary also would be demolished and replaced at that site, at Pembroke and Llewellyn, with a mega elementary that could take 850 students and consolidate Peeler, Hogg and Reagan.
While the mega elementary school is under construction, Peeler students would be sent to Botello and Bowie elementary schools temporarily.
Reagan recently became a DISD “academy” for science, technology, engineering, arts and math. They have a two-way dual-language program and school garden. Recently their students grew watermelons, and teachers crafted lessons around the school-grown fruit. Class sizes are small, and teachers know their students’ parents.
It’s more than a school, they say. It’s a community.
“These teachers are like family to me,” says Reagan parent Blanca Espinoza.
Besides the disruption of shuffling students around while schools are under construction, there is no guarantee that they will have the same teachers or opportunities they have in their current schools, parents say.
“We worked so hard for a STEAM academy and our garden, adn now they want to take that away,” says Reagan PTA president Brenda Duarte.”
Transportation is another potential obstacle for Reagan students. Most of them walk to school. Since Peeler, the location of the proposed mega elementary, is less than a mile away, there would be no school-bus service. Walking to school from Bishop Arts to Peeler requires crossing two very busy streets, Jefferson and 12th.
The point of school consolidation is supposed to be to stem losses to private and charter schools. But parents question whether DISD could even retain its current population with the upheaval and loss of confidence in DISD they think it would cause.
Other Oak Cliff schools the plan calls for demolishing: Rosemont upper campus, Anson Jones, Twain, Hall, Pease, Miller, Webster, Carr, Oliver and Holland elementary schools, plus the alternative-school campus on South Beckley.