Well, Here's One School the Dallas ISD Won't Be Building After All: Joe May Elementary

joemay1.jpg
What would have been Joe May Elementary ...
I got the word late Friday: the long-disputed Jose "Joe" May Elementary School, which the Dallas Independent School District had planned to build on Webb Chapel between Royal and Walnut Hill as part of its 2008 bond program, is dead. Far as the neighbors are concerned, it's an early Christmas miracle: As you may recall back in March DISD trustee Edwin Flores and city council member Ann Margolin found themselves crossways over the campus, with Flores going so far as to threaten a lawsuit if the City Plan Commission didn't sign off.

Problem is: Residents, who've been meeting regularly with Margolin, don't like its location (a dangerous curve on Webb Chapel formerly occupied by a church) and the fact the DISD bought and razed two brand-new, never-lived-in homes in the neighborhood with the intention of directing traffic through small, quiet streets. Flores had maintained the school was needed to take pressure off David G. Burnet and Tom W. Field elementary schools, and as recently as Thursday morning the district had hoped to get the 890-capacity school in front of the CPC early next year in the hopes of having the campus open by, best-case scenario, 2013.

But at 3:32 p.m. Thursday, Karl Crawley, president of Masterplan Consultants, sent an email to senior city planner Jennifer Hiromoto that said, simply: "Please let this email serve as the official request from the DISD to withdraw zoning case Z112-132 for the Jose May Elementary School. I will follow this up shortly with a formal request for a refund of the fee." Late Friday I asked DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander about the withdrawal; he said he didn't know anything about it. District offices are now closed for the holiday.

When I followed up with Crawley this morning about what the district plans to do with the property, and whether it will refile in the future, this was the entirety of his comment on the matter: "All I can say is we've withdrawn the zoning case."

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29 comments
Andrea
Andrea

While I hate the wasted money as much as anyone, and I find it disgusting that the district wasted so much time on a bad choice of location, I'm thrilled to hear this terrible decision is being retracted. There was no way to spin the choice of that blind, blind curve as anything but reckless as the site for an elementary school. Add to that, they were building it within .3 miles of one elementary and .4 miles of another that just opened within the past couple of years, and it was a total mess. The original announcement was for a school "in the Bachman Lake area," and that's where it was needed. I'll be the first to say that my perfunctory look at a map of the BL/LF area didn't reveal a good spot for a school, and I don't know what land costs there are, either, but from the moment that sign went up for Joe May, my husband and I have ranted regularly about the stupidity.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Aren't we closing schools and RIFing teachers?  Aren't we in a budget crunch?  Why are we even discussing new construction when we're underutilizing existing structures and over-extending our budget?  Forget the new school building, keep some of the teachers that will be axed, get rid of about half of the district administration staff and get the budget in line.  THEN you can think about building new schools.

StopDISD.org
StopDISD.org

I have questions.

With all the school closings more questions arise like Eduardo Mata one of the schools listed for closing due to it being under capacity...this is a fairly new school it's only 14 years old (how many millions were spent to construct it?).  Why would the district close it?  Mount Auburn another elementary school in the same area is also on the list and so is O.M. Roberts the school that was recently renovated then demolished in August.   DISD proposes to close these schools even though the only thing left at the Roberts site is dust.  But,  DISD moves forward with building a brand new 22 million dollar O.M. Roberts...does this mean the district will close the fairly new Mata and Mt. Auburn to bus children over to the new Roberts school?  It just doesn't make sense.  Please note both Mata and Mt. Auburn are less than 2 miles away from the Roberts site.   The district should save tax dollars and utilize Mata and Mt. Auburn instead of closing them and why spend millions to build a new O.M. Roberts when it's on the proposed closing list? 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Why is Edwin Flores so interested in making sure this school gets built?

Montemalone
Montemalone

Why did they build the school on the corner of Walnut Hill and Webbs Chapel too small to for these overflow kids from Burnet and Field?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

There really is a need for the school. Since DISD is it's own governmental entity I believe the city is limited by State law in what it can and cannot do in this matter. Pulling the re-zoning request doesn't mean the school won't be built or that it won't be built at that location.  The FAA prohibits schools from being built in the landing path of Love field which limits the available real estate to provide relief to the existing over-croweded schools. The opposition comes, apparently, from a very few, very vocal, homeowners who really would rather not see DISD bus brown kids into their neighborhood.

Heywood U buzzoff
Heywood U buzzoff

I am sure the DISD will end up selling the land, at a loss, to a friend-of-a-friend or swap it for property used for, what is the new euphemism, ah, flow management.  The DISD motto seems to be 'doing the maximum to give your kids the absolute minimal, grudgingly'.

Anon
Anon

This may be a new low for DISD (or maybe just a new low since I've been paying closer attention). How much tax money was wasted on both sides of this fight? Masterplan is no cheapo consulting firm. 

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

The old line is that this is bond money, not operating money, so the money comes from different accounts. Of course, DISD has been caught misappropriating funds left and right, so take that for what it's worth.

Mike3647
Mike3647

You obviously don't know who REALLY runs DISD.  And no sense wasting your energy on logic.

Mike3647
Mike3647

In sure the answer is in his campaign bank account.

Anon
Anon

How can it be possible that there is a need for this school when DISD enrollment is declining and we are talking about closing other schools systemwide? We are not Frisco, Allen, or McKinney with increasing school enrollment (and our total population is basically stagnant as well). I get that some schools are overcrowded and some are underutilized, and it's not a uniform distribution around the city. But all this does is increase the operating budget and waste bond dollars, rather than tackle the tough problem of over investing in physical infrastructure in advance of a smaller enrollment. I don't even live in the area so please let's not pull out the race card prematurely as my only dog in this fight is the flushing of money down the DISD toilet so that the local architecture, construction, and related industries can keep making their money.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I don't think it has anything to do with brown kids.

I think people are tired of being pushed around for DISD schemes that leave us with higher taxes for schools the middle class will not touch.  And when the building inevitably decays and DISD moves in a bunch of blight-ables, the neighborhood has to live with the eyesore.

Aren't Cary Middle and Medrano Middle near this area?  Aren't both of them far below capacity?

Why can't we combine the middle schools and repurpose the leftover building?Oh right....because then no contractor/campaign donors will profit.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

There are a Heck of a lot of Brown kids in that neighbor hood already.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I wonder if it is actually calculated into the overall budget of a project ?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

The enrollment is not declining.  It has been hovering around 157,000 for the last 5 years and will be around that for the next 5 years. Building for future growth is something that DISD has not handled well in the past - no argument there. Hispanic population is blossoming in the area and a new school is needed. Bashing DISD is easy, making it work well for the students is something else entirely. I have already spoken publicly about the need for DISD to reassess their building plans based on demographics that have already changed and they have already stopped some construction and are looking at spending the remaining bond monies differently. This school may not be built but that will only hurt the kids...the construction companies will always find another way to suck the bond funds dry.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

And why do we need architecture firms?  Wouldn't we save at least a little money if we bought ONE set of plans for a basic elementary school and used those plans over and over?  

Enrollment is declining.

3 PTA moms with a Sharpie could redraw the boundaries in an hour and fix the problems of out-of-balance schools.

Fred
Fred

I'm interested in why no high schools such as Madison, Lincoln and Roosevelt are not up for discussion. They are around half capacity.  In the case of Madison, all of the new Roberts (half attend now) could be added to increase enrollment and eliminate portables at other high schools.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

The area will need 600-800 new seats in the next 10 years.Medrano has 837 and can hold 1102 so space for 265.Cary has 574 and can hold 788 so space for 214.Marsh has 1152 and space for 938 so 214 too many.So net space available today is 265.Now get rid of the portables.The area really does need a new school.But, hey, if it doesn't happen then the district will just cram more kids into portables.  Since there will be 24+ kids per teacher at the elementary school level anyway and not enough classrooms we'll just have teachers rotate classroom assignments like they are doing now in other DISD schools. No stability, over-crowding, lots of portables. Business as usual.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

What about combining Cary Middle and Medrano Middle and repurposing the existing "leftover" building for an ele?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

It's about demographics...not enrollment numbers.  People have left areas where schools are and moved to areas where schools aren't. Please take a look at all of the documentation we have requested from the district regarding the budget and the school closures...this is for this year only: http://budgetreview.org/201120... last year is here: http://budgetreview.org/201020...  I would be happy to pass along specific questions to the district as a Budget Commission Member if you don't find the information you are seeking. 

Anon
Anon

I will repeat my question that you've ignored: if enrollment figures project insufficient space district-wide, such that this school must be built, how is DISD closing elementary schools? it is simply a mathematical impossibility for both to be the case unless the answer is that redrawing enrollment districts so drastically would be met with fierce resistance. 

Sadly, I agree about the bond money. I am not naive enough to think that it will ever be repaid (that's not how municipal debt works). And I don't see how I am bashing DISD. I didn't ask something to the effect of "why do they suck at educating students" - I asked specifically about them hiring a high-priced consultant to go to battle w/ the city over building a new school while shutting down others around the city.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

I agree....the Ronald Reagan mantra was "Trust, but verify."  But it always seems a healthy dose of mistrust is also needed when dealing with DISD.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Come to Oak Cliff entire apartment complexes have Been bulldozed .And new schools built.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I'm not sure you can trust whatever numbers DISD gives you, especially regarding enrollment.  They get money for each and every child; they have a financial incentive to fudge numbers.  And since the FBI doesn't seem interested in stopping corruption...

DISD has all the tools needed to provide every child with a great education.  What we need is to cut the campuses loose from a Titanic-sized bureaucracy filled with corruption, waste, and "Ideas" that keep kids and teachers busy serving the bureaucracy.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Funny how companies in business to make money are a bit thrifty with the plans and have those type of expenses pared down to the penny.

DISD, with an apparently unlimited need for more of our tax dollars, sees no reason to be thrifty.

Watch what they do to raise "revenue" after the next trustee election.

Anon
Anon

I mean, you'd need some basic architectural services for each school since the sites would be slightly different. But the reason national chains look the same everywhere is partially so you will recognize their format, but mostly it's because they can just grab one of their 3-4 plans from the last McDonald's they opened and use it again. People wonder why the Wal Mart in S Dallas won't just re-purpose the existing bix boxes that have been abandoned, and that's the reason.

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