Should Highland Park ISD rebuild for the future or adhere to the past? The answer will be provided by voters on Nov. 3, when the district’s ambitious $361 million bond proposal is on the ballot.
And the solution, as they say, might lie somewhere in the middle.
The district has spent several months putting together a plan to raze and rebuild three of its four elementary schools — Bradfield, Hyer, and University Park — during the next several years. The idea comes in response to unprecedented enrollment growth that has seen existing schools become overcrowded and, in some cases, obsolete.
The new campuses would be joined by a new elementary school adjacent to Northway Christian Church and a renovated Armstrong campus. There would also be extensive projects slated for the district’s two secondary campuses, as well, but the ambitious concept for rebuilding the elementary schools — each of which have been around since at least 1949 — has drawn the most skepticism and interest from taxpayers.
Past bond proposals in the district — including the most recent in 2008, for which HPISD is still repaying the debt — have focused on renovations and expansions of the original structures.
“Obviously, with the growth projections, we don’t just want to kick the can down the road,” said Doug Thompson, co-chairman of the Facilities Advisory Committee, the volunteer group of Park Cities parents and civic leaders that helped conceive the audacious idea to reshape the future of HPISD.
“We’re concerned about tearing down three elementary schools and all the traditions associated with that,” said Steve Dawson, treasurer of the Save HPISD Schools Committee, which opposes the plan. “That seems unreasonable.”
The group’s concern is shared by Preservation Dallas, a nonprofit group that advocates for historic community buildings, which recently placed the three elementary schools on its list of “endangered” places in Dallas.
“We felt it was important to call attention to the three historic schools and if there is a way to save them or rescue them instead of taking them down,” said David Preziosi, executive director of Preservation Dallas.
HPISD recently released preliminary sketches from district architect Stantec that show possibilities for the exterior design of the front of the three rebuilt schools. Each would be two stories with an underground parking garage.
EFFECTS ON CAPACITY IF PASSED
A plan to build a fifth elementary school in HPISD would allow student capacity to surpass enrollment, which is illustrated below.
Source: PASA Demographics
Stantec’s Jonathan Aldis said many factors went into the designs, including the desire to incorporate historical elements into the new structures.
“This is not about wiping things out and starting again,” Aldis said. “The history needs to be honored going forward.”
Stantec, formerly known as SHW Group, designed the renovations at each campus for the 2008 bond election. The firm was hired again three years ago, after a selection process that included proposals from 22 companies. Aldis has acted as a consultant throughout discussions with the FAC.
“There’s a part of me that will be sad to see them go. But we were willing to step outside our own nostalgia and think about what’s best for our kids and their future,” said FAC member Blythe Koch.
This summer, the district assembled a separate design team for each elementary campus, again comprised of community volunteers, to provide input.
“There are some historical architectural features of each school that are important,” Thompson said. “They will still feel like community neighborhood schools.”
There aren’t any sketches yet for the proposed fifth elementary school, which would be built before any of the existing schools are torn down, then used as a relief campus during construction at Bradfield, Hyer, and UP.
Aldis said there’s still plenty of site planning to be done for the new school, if it passes. The design of the underground parking garages at each campus hasn’t been finalized, and a project management structure hasn’t been determined.
District officials said the design process would be expedited if the bond funding is approved. But officials stressed the desire for public participation.
“These aren’t going to be cookie-cutter schools,” said HPISD superintendent Tom Trigg. “These are very strong examples of what they might look like. It’s a starting point for our community.”