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From the Mailbag: You've Got Questions, People Who Know More Than We Have Answers

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Every so often, Friends of Unfair Park send in e-mails full of questions to which we only wish we knew the answers. And I'll send those queries to the experts. So, this morning, we tackle two topics pulled at random from the grab bag. First up ...

Friend of Unfair Park Wyatt asks: My neighbors and I are real curious about the status of the Katy Trail's march toward White Rock -- if and when it will ever bridge Mockingbird and make the connection. Do you have any insight you could share with Unfair Park?

I forwarded Wyatt's question to Willis Winters, assistant director of Parks and Rec, who handed it off to Michael Hellmann, Manager of Park Planning & Acquisitions for the Park and Recreation Department. He responds:

The Katy Trail project is moving forward, although it is being implemented in several phases that have different schedules. The section between U.S. 75 and Skillman is under construction now, with the exception of the pedestrian bridge over Mockingbird, which is in the final stages of design. The section between Skillman and the White Rock DART station has been put out to bid and is going through the process to award a construction contract. Look for construction to start on that section this summer.

Thanks, Michael. Next up: Many Friends of Unfair Park have asked: Given the Dallas ISD's budget problems courtesy the state $27-billion shortfall, why can't the district shutter schools? And why will it keep opening new ones, when the superintendent has threatened to lay off 3,100 on-campus employees and fill classrooms with upwards of 50 students at the secondary level?

Well, for that, of course, we turn to Jon Dahlander, DISD spokesman, who writes:

A few years ago, the board updated its policy on closing schools. It's a pretty involved process that takes months, including studying demographics and attendance zones, followed by public meetings. Closing one school creates a ripple effect that will obviously impact neighboring campuses.

On the other hand, the district is opening five schools next year that will have an impact on attendance zones with neighboring campuses. The work on creating new attendance zones for those schools has been ongoing for months, so any changes to those by closing other schools would add even more complexity. The idea of closing campuses is on the table to be discussed later this year by the board with the implementation set for 2012-13.

For the most part, the new schools opening this fall will provide enrollment relief for some campuses as well as provide students and teachers with updated facilities.

Regarding the figure of having to cut 3,100, please note that is the current projected campus employee figure, not all of which will be teachers. The current non-campus estimate of positions to be cut is 800.

Finally, we are hopeful that class-size ratios at the high school level don't reach the figures of 50-60. SB 468, filed by Sen. Shapiro, will hopefully give boards and superintendents flexibility to keep that from happening.

Anything else? Bring it.

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