Dallas ISD Hopes to "Earn Community's Trust" By Streamlining Its Alternative Schools

We've had this discussion on and off in recent months: With all the schools coming online courtesy the 2008 bond election, when oh when will Dallas Independent School District begin shuttering some of its existing campuses? Trustee Edwin Flores says perhaps as soon as the 2012-'13 school year; this morning, district spokesman Jon Dahlander tells Unfair Park he expects that conversation "to begin in earnest in the fall."

Dahlander and I were talking about several items on the board's briefing agenda for Thursday morning, during which trustees will get their look at the fourth version of the expected budget guts forthcoming in the wake of the state's shortfall. I wanted to know about one in particular: the suggestion that the district close two of its alternative schools -- Otto M. Fridia Jr. Alternative High School in the Cedars, and Barbara M. Manns High School downtown. Says the agenda item, the proposal is being made "in an effort to best utilize resources" and to "earn the community's trust through good financial management."

Dahlander says Fridia wouldn't be closed -- it'll just "change its focus." Which is to say: Once home to "at-risk" students shipped in from throughout the district, it'll now serve as the over-age middle school which, you'll recall, was first proposed in January. And the building on Ervay that houses Manns will stay open, since it also houses Maya Angelou High School, which serves pregnant students.

"It's an office building downtown, so it would be redirecting students who had been attending Manns to either their home school or the overage high school, which would be the John Leslie Patton Jr. Academic Center," Dahlander says. "It's an attempt to streamline resources, which came up last year, so it's been in the works for a while."

But he acknowledges: This is but the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg that will eventually lead to the discussion of closing down schools.

"And that discussion is a lengthy one involving not only the board, but also the community," he says. "It involves redrawing boundaries, and there are a lot of d decisions that come with shuttering a school, but to maximize efficiencies you need to have them. And it'll be difficult, but it's important to have them. Neighborhoods change. Neighborhoods evolve. Where one particular school may not have as many kids as it was envisioned to have, there are other parts of town where population is booming, so you want to maximize resources there.

"And just because a school is closed for one year to five years to 10 years doesn't mean it won't be reopened. We've seen that at DeGolyer and Withers. They were shut down, and now they're vibrant. It depends on how communities come back around."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky