‘Poorly devised’ schools demolition plan costs $394 million more than sound maintenance

The Rosemont Elementary School upper campus. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Enrollment is growing in every school that Dallas ISD has suggested demolishing in Oak Cliff’s District 7.

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At Rosemont Elementary, where a proposed facilities plan calls for tearing down the 1922 “upper campus” on Rosemont Avenue, more than 200 new students started this year, including 130 who weren’t early-childhood or pre-k. DISD wants to demolish the old school and populate the 2004 Chris V. Semos “lower campus” with grades pre-k through 8.

Rosemont parents called the expensive plan to tear down neighborhood elementary schools and replace them with centralized “mega” elementary schools “clearly a poorly devised plan” that was produced by an outside consultant without a lick of community input.

The original list of schools to demolish include Rosemont, Hogg, Reagan and L.K. Hall, among others in Oak Cliff. But after contacting the school board, some parents at those schools heard back that their school had been removed from the demolish list.

“There’s supposed to be a new list coming,” District 7 DISD Trustee Audrey Pinkerton told parents in a meeting Wednesday night.

The original list was based on age and cost of upkeep, among other factors. But it’s noticeable that most of the to-demolish schools are south of Interstate 30.

 

This proposed facilities plan lacks any traffic study to see how cars will affect the mega schools’ neighborhoods. At Rosemont’s lower campus, a two-lane roadway already becomes choked with cars every school morning and afternoon.

“If I had to guess, I’d say it’s charter-school envy,” Pinkerton said Wednesday. “We’re beside ourselves” trying to compete.

In the past few decades, enrollment dropped from 180,000 students to about 157,000. As the Texas Legislature continues to cut education spending, public charter schools continue expanding and poaching would-be DISD students. Enrollment is on a slow downward trend.

But DISD recently invested $125 million in choice schools, including at some of the schools now listed to demolish in this proposal.

Besides that, this facilities plan is not even cheap, Pinkerton says.

“This is the expensive option,” she says.

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Tearing down old schools and building new ones would cost $394 million more than to bring all of the schools across the district to a minimum standard. All to save about $2.3 million a year in future maintenance costs.

Pinkerton, who has a background in the construction business, puts it this way:

Imagine someone selling you solar panels that would save $2,300 a year on your electricity bills. But installing the new panels will cost $39,000 up front. Would you take that deal?

Here’s how to give your answer:

Sign up to speak at the Nov. 15 or Dec. 13 DISD Board of Trustees meetings by calling 972.925.3720 by 5 p.m. the previous day. Find email addresses for every DISD trustee here.

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