Dallas ISD To Seek Zoning Change for Walnut Hill Career Campus

Former elementary would house institute where students learn variety of job skills

It’s been more than a year since an EF3 tornado struck the Walnut Hill Elementary School building, which had been welcoming students since 1946.

Since then, it has sat empty, protected by tarps and plywood, waiting for its next life as the unexpected (a pandemic) and the expected (construction delays) left it in stasis as Dallas ISD cemented plans for the three campuses that were hit hardest.

Cary Middle School was a complete loss and was razed. In its place, a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade campus will replace it and Walnut Hill Elementary. Thomas Jefferson High School will get a renovation that will meld new construction with salvageable existing structures.

But the historic building that sits at the corner of Midway Road and Killion Drive won’t be demolished. Instead, according to school board meeting discussions and paperwork filed with the city of Dallas, it will be incorporated into new construction that will become one of four career institutes the district has started. Each campus – North, South, East, and West – offers training in various career paths and begins in ninth grade.

The North campus will eventually be housed at the Walnut Hill site, but for now is in temporary digs at 13400 Midway Road, in Farmers Branch. It offers training in aviation flight mechatronics, cybersecurity, construction and carpentry, electrical and solar, HVAC/R technology, interior design, and plumbing and pipefitting. By 2022, it will add automotive technology, culinary arts, health science, and welding.

“The DISD plans on saving the portions of the existing school that are salvageable from the tornado and add on a larger addition to repurpose the school into the Walnut Hill Career Institute,” the land use statement provided in the district’s zoning change application said.

The district is requesting a zoning change from residential zoning to a planned development for a school. The request will likely be heard by the city plan commission on Feb. 18.

Students from Hillcrest, W.T. White, Thomas Jefferson, North Dallas, and Emmett J. Conrad high schools attend the school, which will offer a half-day of career instruction, with the core curriculum courses taught at the students’ home high schools.

In a November school board briefing, district officials explained that each campus was situated to be about 20 minutes from the high school served. Students are transported by bus to and from the career institute, with no student parking allowed at the career institute campuses.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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