The plan to add onto Lakewood Elementary “did not start out as an overcrowding solution,” says Dorcy Clark, president of the Lakewood Elementary Expansion Foundation (LEEF). “It started out as, ‘We need to get rid of these portable [classrooms] and get these kids in an environment for 21st century learning.’ ”
That was a year and half ago, before Lakewood Elementary started the 2013-2014 school year with eight kindergarten classrooms and later added another, a total of nine. The school has “grown dramatically” since LEEF began its work, says spokeswoman Amy Fennegan, and is now educating more than 850 students despite its capacity for only 552. Families continue to move into the Lakewood Elementary boundaries, and “to house all those kids, the school is not large enough right now,” Fennegan says.
The overcrowding is problematic not only for parents tired of “the deplorable state of portables that has been a problem for years,” as Fennegan describes it, but also for both parents and property owners on the edges of Lakewood Elementary’s boundaries, north of Mockingbird in neighborhoods such as Hillside, and south of Gaston in Lakewood Hills and Hollywood/Santa Monica. A write-up in Lakewood Hills’ recent newsletter titled “What we can all do to help our neighborhood” notes rumors that “DISD plans to redraw the school’s attendance zone boundaries to exclude residents south of Gaston” and encourages people to financially support the LEEF initiative because “the reason for our soaring property values is Lakewood Elementary … [and] by donating money to this initiative, even just a little, we have the potential to protect our property values.”
This appeal comes a couple of weeks before LEEF’s March 31 deadline to raise $500,000 from the community. (To date, LEEF has raised just over $330,000.) Clark says they are working with several DISD officials in hopes of the district matching these funds as well as tapping into $5 million in federal stimulus money toward the project. These particular stimulus dollars are set aside for school projects backed by private funding, she says.
“The agreement we have with the district is once we have $500,000, we can begin to ink out the deal and look at stimulus money and explore other options as well,” Clark says. However, she says, “it’s not a done deal because, of course, the board of trustees has to approve everything.”
Fennegan and Clark distance themselves from any connection between LEEF’s success and Lakewood’s boundaries. The current conceptual drawings would give Lakewood Elementary a capacity of 960 students, Clark says, roughly 100 more than currently attend the school. This would replace the current portable classrooms and add about four more.
“As we continue into detailed design, there is definitely an opportunity to expand” that capacity, Clark says, “but the district will tell you there is only a certain point that makes sense for an elementary school. We anticipate working with district demographers to see what makes sense.”
LEEF’s primary goal is to address the facilities, which “are in shambles,” Clark says. And now that the school has an overcrowding issue, too, “I know it is a great priority for us and the district to be able to accommodate” the growth, Fennegan says.
“History would say [the trustees] are pretty loathe to redraw boundaries,” Fennegan says. “That’s not a happy thing for them; that’s not a happy thing for anybody.”
LEEF is not the only solution being proposed to relieve overcrowding at Lakewood; Dallas ISD also has proposed ideas to turn Eduardo Mata Elementary into a Montessori school and both Robert E. Lee and William B. Lipscomb elementaries into International Baccalaureate schools, partly in hopes of drawing families away from Lakewood and Stonewall Jackson Elementary, which is just as overcrowded as Lakewood. Stonewall has capacity for 397 students and its fall enrollment was 619 students. We’ve contacted DISD officials to find out where these proposals stand; to stay abreast of updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
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