Seven hours into last night’s Dallas ISD board meeting, at 1 a.m., the room erupted into cheers and applause as DISD trustees approved a bridge plan that will address some of the district’s immediate facility needs.
The reaction was “relief along with sheer excitement as well as gratitude,” says Sara Hundley, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School’s PTA president. The school will receive $5.3 million for new classroom space to replace the 15 portable classrooms currently on campus.
Hundley describes the seven hours as “a roller coaster” with a “spirited debate” among trustees that left parents wondering at times whether the plan would receive the needed votes. In the end, all nine trustees voted in favor, and a unanimous vote “has not occurred in quite some time,” Hundley points out.
“At the end of the day, the trustees really did set aside their personal agendas and opinions in order to make an immediate impact on 10,000-plus students,” she says. “It was symbolic in a way — they did really begin to build a bridge among themselves, and I think it was a really great outlook to the future to what our trustees can achieve when they have our best interest at heart.”
The vote gives nearly $130 million to more than 20 DISD schools for upgrades, renovations or expanded classroom spaces. Lakewood Elementary School, like Stonewall, is overcrowded, with 14 portable buildings and two outdated modular buildings housing the majority of its students. For some time, Lakewood parents have campaigned for new facilities and, in recent weeks, heaped pressure on trustees; last night’s bridge plan vote gives the school $12.6 million for new classrooms as well as a new cafeteria and library. Photos from the meeting and a video of the vote posted on the Lakewood Elementary Expansion Fund Facebook page express the excitement of parents over the outcome.
Both schools say they will need even more money for facility upgrades at their campuses. LEEF has put an estimated $15 million pricetag on the renovations and additions needed at Lakewood’s campus, and Hundley says Stonewall needs to make upgrades to its cafeteria, auditorium and gym, which are not included in the bridge plan funding. The vote last night was proposed as a stop-gap until the district can bring a financial package before voters to address many more needs at its facilities. The parent communities at both Lakewood and Stonewall are advocating to be part of this long-term funding plan as well, “but in the short term, we’re very grateful,” Hundley says.
Dan D. Rogers and Sanger elementary schools also received funding via last night’s vote — $2.5 million to turn Rogers into a “personalized learning innovation school” and $700,000 to replace Sanger’s pre-k modulars with a wing and add modulars to expand the school up to eighth-grade. Trustee Dan Micciche, who represents portions of East Dallas, also proposed an amendment last night to give $5.3 million to Casa View Elementary to address overcrowding and facility issues at the school, and trustees approved this amendment as part of the bridge plan package.
“It was a really a proud moment last night to see how the East Dallas community banded together and advocated not only for our schools but other DISD schools,” Hundley says. “It was a long evening, but certainly the outcome was in our favor.”
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