Despite protests from constituents, the Highland Park (Texas) school board has voted to demolish and rebuild two elementary schools over the next two years, a process that will mean the temporary relocation of hundreds of students.
The Dallas Morning News reports that about 20 parents and residents asked the school board to delay plans to remake Bradfield and Hyer elementary schools. But district officials say they believe their plan is best for the district.
"We recognize this decision will not make everybody happy. We understand that," says board member Paul Rowsey. "At the same time, this committee feels strongly that this is the right decision for students and the community as a whole."
The projects are part of a $361.4 million bond package passed in 2015.
Patrons who spoke at this week's board meeting say they initially supported the bond program because they believed students at Hyer would be displaced for only one year, that the new Hyer would be only two stories tall and that the district's enrollment was increasing significantly.
Now some of them say they are irked by plans to keep Hyer students at the fifth school for two years, as well as talk of possibly adding a third story to the new Hyer. They said that would add traffic congestion to the area and destroy the neighborhood's charm.
They also argue that demolishing and rebuilding Hyer and Bradfield is unnecessary because the district's enrollment has been decreasing.
“Since 2014, our enrollment has not continued to go up ... it hasn’t gone up at all,” says Kelly Perkins, a Hyer parent. “I voted for the bond based on what was presented. But now I am realizing that people that proposed this may have relied on numbers that weren’t quite complete."
Jon Dahlander, a district spokesman, says enrollment over the past three decades has increased. Highland Park added 3,000 students from 1989 to 2014, a trend that indicates more growth is likely.
"This is not a three- to four-year plan. This is a 20- to 30-year plan," Dahlander says.
Dahlander said most of the concerns about the construction projects have come from Hyer parents, particularly those who live near the school.
Hyer students are expected to move into a not-yet-open elementary school in the fall and stay there two years. Meanwhile, Bradfield students, instead of going to that new elementary, will temporarily attend Hyer while Bradfield is demolished and rebuilt during the 2018-19 school year.