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Dallas board agrees to spend an additional $26.3 million to repair and rebuild tornado-damaged high school

Feb. 1, 2021
The funds for work at Thomas Jefferson High are in addition to the $132 million allocated a year ago to rebuild Jefferson and the adjacent Cary Middle School.

The Dallas school district will spend an additional $26.3 million for construction at Thomas Jefferson High School, one of three district campuses heavily damaged by an October 2019 tornado.

The Dallas Morning News reports that although the board approved the cost increase, several members expressed their displeasure for the last-minute way in which the items appeared on the January agenda.

A year ago, the board approved nearly $132 million in construction projects at two adjacent campuses, selecting to salvage — not completely rebuild — some of Thomas Jefferson’s structures while approving a new prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade campus on the neighboring site of Cary Middle School. Cary was  destroyed by the tornado.

[From October 2020: Dallas district moves forward to replace schools damaged by 2019 tornado]

The projects have been plagued by setbacks: The district didn’t receive full replacement costs from its insurance coverage, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected the state’s request to issue a major disaster declaration for the storms, which prevented the district from receiving federal relief funding.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa offered an apology for presenting the changes on short notice. He vowed to “underpromise and overdeliver” on construction projects in the future.

Dwayne Thompson, the district’s chief business officer, explained that nearly two-thirds of the new request, $17.2 million, is attributed to unforeseen costs — either prompted by the permitting process through the city of Dallas or created because the existing structure lay dormant for almost a year.

The remaining dollars are earmarked for expanding the original scope of the project. That includes upgrading the auditorium and creating “parity based on school capacity” for the high school’s career and technical education classrooms, as well as its visual and performing arts space.

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