Jubilee Park Residents Still Wary of DISD's Plans for a New O.M. Roberts Elementary

Click to embiggen this proposal drawn up by bcWorkshop to add a new O.M. Roberts Elementary building without creeping into the surrounding neighborhood.
Last we checked in with the Jubilee Parkers fighting the Dallas Independent School District's attempt to snatch up their homes to make room for a new O.M. Roberts Elementary building, the controversy looked to be finished. State Rep. Eric Johnson intervened on the residents' behalf, you'll recall, and shortly thereafter, DISD sent letters to the homeowners telling them it would back off its eminent domain suits.

Since then, though, it hasn't been all cupcakes and Gummi bears for the Jubilee residents. Their problem, says neighborhood troop-rallier Norma Hernandez, is that DISD already owns some of the homes on the land it wanted to develop. "It says that it's over," Hernandez says, in story after story about DISD backing down, "but it's really not over." Hernandez says 11 homeowners on the block adjacent to O.M. Roberts already sold to the district (two more since she put together this map last month), and last month, they say, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa confirmed DISD was looking into demolishing the houses and using the land for parking lots and playgrounds.

Hernandez and fellow activist Shawn Busari say they had a private sit-down with Hinojosa on December 14, during which they urged him to reconsider the plan, wondering how much sense it would make -- or how safe it'd be for kids walking back and forth -- to pepper a residential block with pint-sized parking lots. Hernandez is also worried about demolishing the 102-year-old school building, not long after the district dropped $2.6 million to renovate the place. Hinojosa, they said, was unswayed.

Last month StopDISD.org posted a follow-up to the original Jake Ewing-produced comic about their cause, this one called "Jubilee Park's Christmas Nightmare," detailing the state of their cause.

Hernandez says she hopes DISD takes a good look at some plans drawn up at Brent Brown's bcWorkshop, which proposed building a new O.M. Roberts building alongside the old one -- and adding 3,200 square feet of parking -- without expanding into the surrounding neighborhood. Join us after the jump, where bcWorkshop's Andy Sturm tells us more.

Sturm says he'd heard about the neighbors' concerns about plans for the new school -- not just the expansion into the neighborhood, but the prospect of students being bused across the city while O.M. Roberts is demolished and rebuilt -- and figured it'd be worth exploring whether there was a less disruptive way to go. "We looked at the site really quick, and tried to think of how you can not take people's houses, keep the kids there while construction's going on, and keep the old building," he says.

"The big challenge seems to be over land," Sturm says. "If you think about the last 50 years of schools, not just in Dallas but all over the country, most schools have been built on green sites out in the country." By taking an urban approach, looking critically at how the current land is being used, he and his team found there was plenty of room for a second building within the school's current footprint. All it would take, he says, is losing the portable classrooms on the northern corner of the block, and expanding into the old car wash site on the eastern corner at Barry and Grand Avenue.

Sturm says adding a new building alongside the old one would leave some flexibility in DISD's plans, too. "If, for some reason, the old building just has to go, you could put kids into the new building and tear down the existing one."

Sturm says bcWorkshop's been working closely with the Jubilee Park and Community Center on new senior housing and other projects in the neighborhood, and his team got input from the community center while drawing up the plans, ultimately passing the drawings plans along to them when they were finished.

Separately, but kinda related -- you may recall that back in November we mentioned Yvette Laster's fight with the city, which has taken her to municipal court, complaining her Jubilee Park home is woefully out of code compliance. The suit was filed last July, but while we suggested it'd be going to trial late last year, Laster's attorney Chris Kling tells us the date was reset for January 26.

Busari, who earlier told us she'd help mobilize the neighborhood to support Laster, says she's been subpoenaed by the city -- probably, she says, to hear from her about a Jubilee Park and Community Center steering community meeting she heard, where Laster's home came up in discussion. Busari says the committee batted around the idea of installing a community garden on the site of Laster's home. Stay tuned.

Further exploration of possible land use on the site of O.M. Roberts Elementary. Click to make it large.
Click to embiggen.

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I cannot say it any better than El Rey and DISD Teacher. It always leaves me baffled why some won't copy others with a proven track record of success. Whether it be for a new school building, gym or a successful school district we can all be proud of. The DISD should copy what works best and already proven a success. Instead of constantly trying to come up with their own original ideas that keep failing, and keep turning out for the worst or staying the mediocre same with no positive change. Copying is the highest form of compliment. BIG egos hate to give credit to anyone else but themselves. But why waste time and knock heads against the wall trying to figure out the best solution to any problem? It just doesn't make sense when someone else has done all the hard work and figured it out already. It's too bad that so often egos get in the way of success. It has to be their way or no way even if their way is wrong. The best way for them to save face and their precious egos is to copy successful formats but change it up a bit. PRESTO/PROBLEM SOLVED!!! That way they can take some of the credit for originality. And a WHOLE lot of credit for doing the smart and right thing.


I know Mr Hinojosa, let's do a number seven on em. (in my best Slim Pickens impersonation).

El Rey
El Rey

Despite myself, I will try my hand as a problem solver.

Problem: DISD and the faculty of O.M. Roberts want a better facility.Solution: Use the above referenced site plan from bcWorkshop and take some of the design cues and programmatic themes from the Hector Garcia Middle School down in the O.C. to get an efficient building that is also a fantastic learning environment. The resulting building will be a draw for teachers and families and will benefit the neighborhood as a whole.

Problem: Six of the eleven homes along Philip Ave. are DISD owned.Solution: Use those homes / lots for school staff / construction crew parking and offices during the construction process. Then rehab or rebuild the homes and sell them (with the previous owner getting right of first refusal on the property). (For best results, use the bcWorkshop formula that was proven on Congo Street.)

Problem: Five or six other properties along Gurley Ave. are owned by DISD.Solution: Rehab or rebuild the homes and sell them (with the previous owner getting right of first refusal on the property). (For best results, use the bcWorkshop formula that was proven on Congo Street.)

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

How is it that Hector G. isn't THE model for every school do-over in the DISD? That thing's extraordinary. I drove by it with my second-grade son, and he said: "I want to go to college there." I explained to him it was a junior high. "Then I want to go there for junior high," he said. Marsh Middle School doesn't have quite the same impact.

El Rey
El Rey

I took a tour last year with a bunch of architect types. I asked the principal just one question, "Do the teachers and students enjoy using the facility?". He then went on for five minutes about how teachers are on waiting lists to come and teach there, and how improved student grades & attendance is a good reflection on the effectiveness of the design.

My better half was on a site based decision-making committee for a certain DISD high school. When faced with voting on facility improvements, she often consulted with me. She showed me a proposal for a new gym facility and I thought the cost was way too high. She said she thought the fees for the architects and engineers was too high. She went on to say how the rest of the group and the administration thought the school needed an exemplary design for the new gym. I asked her why the principal and the administration feels the need to reinvent the wheel for every dang building project that comes along. A gym is a gym is a gym, right? They should be able to grab a set of plans from any of the dozens of gyms built in the district and go (understandably with some minor changes and engineering adjustments for the new location). They (DISD) act like every new building on the drawing board has to be something new and original. My suggestion: use what works best and quit wasting our money.

The fraud and waste of the district is shameful.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

If you want to see shameful, El Rey, see Claudia Rodriguez's raise: $32,000. No new skills or degrees, just a friend of El Jefe.

If you want to see shameful, come see the purposely overcrowded cafeterias where kids skip lunch rather than wait in long lines.

Or see the new schools they're building even though there are no funds to pay for a staff to staff the schools.

It goes on and on.It is our school board that is the most shameful.HInojosa at least is being paid to be their puppet and he seems thrilled to do whatever shocking thing they ask him to do for money.

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