Last night was the second public forum regarding the upcoming bond election for HPISD facilities renovations. And I must say, good job, guys. As I mentioned earlier this week, Tuesday night’s meeting had a dearth of speakers. But this time, nearly 20 speakers voiced their praise, concerns, and criticisms, pushing the meeting more than an hour past its projected end time.
So, what were the concerns? Let’s see … one commenter asked how the new campuses will impact class size. Facilities committee member Maryjane Bonfield said that class sizes will be smaller after all the renovations — most likely they’ll be brought down to the state limit of 22 for elementary campuses and an average of 25 at the intermediate through high schools.
“State funding is per-student, so lower [than that] is not economically feasible,” she said.
One again, Section 8 housing came up in relation to the new elementary school that would be built with property purchased from Northway Christian Church. Russell Fish presented his argument that “like much in life, this is a compromise.” However, other speakers expressed their dislike of Section 8 housing and their hope that it will not impact HPISD. But officials clarified that the section of Dallas that falls within HPISD boundaries — Caruth Hills — doesn’t have Section 8 on the table right now.
“We don’t believe, with our research, that building the building increases the likelihood. [Section 8] will come or won’t regardless,” new superintendent Tom Trigg said. “That would have to entail Section 8 being built within the district. There’s no connection to the bond issue. We don’t determine that.”
Similarly, many expressed concerns over rezoning in the Park Cities from single-family to multi-family, which allows for more rental properties — but this is an issue determined by the municipalities’ city councils and not the school board.
“Both cities have defined zoning and growth and number of units that can be built,” co-chair Gage Prichard said. “That’s shaped by the Planning and Zoning committee and the council.”
Other comments from committee members expressed interest in bike lanes due to freed-up space from underground parking, designing in a way that would allow for expansion in the future if needed, and keeping existing memorials from the elementary schools. The order the elementary schools would be rebuild has not been determined at this time.
“We’ve talked several times with the architect and assured him we are very interested in how [the campuses] will look,” Prichard said. “We don’t want something that looks like a warehouse. We’re working very diligently to build … beautiful, great buildings for the future.”
Still other questions rolled in.
“My concern is not the size [of the bond proposal] and cost … it’s the short notice,” Mark Newman said.
He and others were displeased that many residents were still on vacation during this week’s meetings and unable to participate in the discussions. Committee members pointed out that comments are still being collected online as well. Some audience members even voiced preference for deferring the bond election again, though it was already deferred in May.
Of course, many expressed concern for the historic nature of the elementary schools that would be lost in rebuilds. But others disagreed.
“I commend you for stopping the Band-Aid [approach],” Stacy Kelly said. “Go where it’s scary to go. We have to have the classrooms.”
Yet more voices agreed.
“Do the right thing,” Eddie Moore said, who serves as chairman of the University Park Board of Adjustment. “Is it enhancing the educational mission? It must change dramatically. We will pledge to take the steps necessary. We’re all in. Our efforts must match those of our kids and educators.”