The City and Dallas Independent School District Are At Odds Over Planned Joe May Elementary

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Last night, Dallas Independent School District trustee Edwin Flores held court in the E.D. Walker Middle School auditorium, where some 100 district parents bundled up to hear Flores talk about the coming budget cuts thanks to the state's shortfall. (If the district is serious about saving money, maybe it ought to see about getting the school's temperature somewhere above "storing meat." Anyway.) Flores didn't say much you haven't already heard before, so no need to recap the numbers portion of the evening -- except to say the board's got a "Version 2.0" of the budget forthcoming, at which time, he said, "we'll see what we think will really happen." As opposed to, say, the super's worst-case scenario presented last month.

Flores's most interesting revelation came at the beginning of his two-hour talk, immediately following a 2008 bond program update. The District 1 rep (of "The Great Northwest," as he calls it) told the audience we might have noticed that Jose "Joe" May Elementary School on Webb Chapel between Royal and Walnut Hill wasn't in the good-news slide show just screened. The reason, explained Flores: The city of Dallas's Plan Commission "blocked" it.

Said Flores, "It's been rejected by the city," and though the district's "in dialogue with city officials," he's not optimistic the 890-student-capacity school -- intended to serve as a reliever for David G. Burnet and Tom W. Field elementary schools -- will be ready by 2012, when it's scheduled to open. Flores said best-case scenario it would open its doors in 2013.

"We've got 1,000 kids in portables who could be attending that school in 2012," Flores said. "But if we have to take the city to court, that's what we'll do."

Flores also blamed District 13 city council rep Ann Margolin: "Unfortunately, we're not getting the support from our elected official." Which is news to Margolin.

Flores is absolutely right: On February 3, the city plan commissioners voted 9-4 to deny the district's request to replat the patch of land where the district wants to build the school. Residents were already worried about putting a school on that dangerous S-shaped stretch of Webb Chapel, which is presently occupied by an empty church. But the district's decision to buy up two relatively new houses on Pensive Drive -- a small residential street -- and push the school in that direction was enough to rally neighbors, Margolin says.

"They showed up in force" to the plan commission hearing, says the council member, which is what finally convinced commissioners to deny the district's request even after city staff had recommended approving the DISD's request for a replat.

"My support is completely irrelevant to this," Margolin says. "But the neighborhood is vehemently opposed and very organized. But if the district had gone about this the right way, it should have made acquisition of the property pending approval of replatting and rezoning. But in this case they didn't, and I think [the school] would be an imposition on the neighbors."

When asked where she stands on the school, Margolin said, frankly, she doesn't understand why it's going there anyway -- in between the relatively new Leonides Gonzalez Cigarroa and the great F. P. Caillet elementary school. Says Margolin: "The district says that was the only property available. But if it hadn't been available, they could have found somewhere else to build it."

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