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The tornado-damaged Cary MIddle School in Dallas

Dallas board grants emergency authority to quickly address tornado damage

The district is working to address facility damage from Oct. 20 tornadoes as it waits to learn the fate of 3 campuses that may be declared total losses.

The Dallas school board has voted to give administrators emergency purchasing power so they can bypass traditional procedures and quickly acquire much-needed items in the wake of the tornadoes that damaged numerous campuses.

The Dallas Morning News reports that district officials are moving fast to address immediate needs—some school roofs need to be repaired, and new heating systems need to be installed before temperatures drop too low.

Still undecided is whether the district should rebuild the three schools—Thomas Jefferson High, Cary Middle and Walnut Hill Elementary—that are likely to be declared total losses from damage inflicted by the Oct. 20 tornadoes. The school board was formally updated for the first time on the tornado damage at a Tuesday meeting.

Scott Layne, deputy superintendent of operations, says it will probably be close to Thanksgiving before insurance representatives are able to tell the district whether or not the three campuses are a loss or what the damage estimate is.

District officials also are talking with federal emergency officials to determine what kind of funding might be available for schools.

In the meantime, administrators are brainstorming ideas on what replacing the schools might look like. One idea is to create a prekindergarten through high school campus or a middle/high school combo. One of the school sites could be used to build a career institute that focuses on specific job-related courses.

Officials are far from deciding anything. The district's immediate needs are getting students and staff settled into their new campuses.

Jefferson High students have been moved nine miles across town into what was once Edison Middle School. Walnut Hill took over the vacant Tom Field Elementary School. Students and staff from Cary were split between Benjamin Franklin and Francisco Medrano middle schools.

The emergency purchasing authority approved by the board will enable administrators to immediately address many of those needs, such as buying heating and cooling units for Cigarroa Elementary as well as replacing roofing and floors at Burnet and Cigarroa elementary schools. The district already has spent about $1 million as it has worked to clear debris, place tarps and move kids across town, officials said.

Layne says it’s too early to determine how the storm will affect plans to out a bond proposal before voters next year.

Dallas has identified about $500 million in needs for 16 new campuses and $1.5 billion for renovating existing schools.

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