South Oak Cliff High School

After Yearslong Wait, South Oak Cliff Students Attend New $52M Campus

After years of issues and a major renovation, the campus is open to students for the new semester.

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Years of hard work is coming to life in Oak Cliff.

It wasn't your typical back-to-school moment for students at South Oak Cliff High School Tuesday morning. Students were greeted with a brand new campus, bringing to a close years of frustration after demanding better facilities.

"I think it looks really great, inside and outside. And I’m really excited because there’s a lot of room, and we really needed that because it was always crowded," junior Hazel Rodriguez said.

The students were welcomed back with balloons, high fives and cheers from staff and faculty, neighboring schools, school district officials and even the group 100 Black Men of Dallas and Black Men Care. All were there to show their support for students, some of whom spent years fighting for basic needs.

"It was all in the thoughts of the next generation. We already knew that there were kids coming in behind us that looked up to us," said Landon Finley, a former student who protested conditions, but graduated before he got to see the changes.

For years, students voiced their frustrations over crumbling buildings, leaking roofs and even electrical problems that made it hard to keep the school warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Students even staged a walkout in December 2015.

Those same students arrived at the school Tuesday morning to see brand new classrooms, a new gym, new staircases and hallways.

They told me it's great to see their hard work come to fruition.

“Us as students, us coming together. You know we got something done. We got people to listen to us and us standing out and standing up for ourselves and what we believe in got us this school," said Lizzett Godinez, a former student who also protested conditions at SOCHS.

Dallas Independent School District Place 5 Trustee, Pastor Maxie Johnson, said future generations would now have an opportunity for a better education with the new facility.

"My son led a student protest and this is the result of kids saying we want a better education, we want safer facilities," Johnson said.

What was originally budgeted at roughly $18 million in renovations was eventually extended into a $52 million makeover.

“This is not easy, taking on buildings that have been neglected and making them first-class,” Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told NBC 5 in December during a walk-through of the building. “The kids that go to Lancaster, DeSoto, Duncanville and Cedar, Hill this is what they have in their facilities. Our urban kids don’t have this. So, this will give us equal footing to be able to keep our kids.”

Current senior class president Tyesha Brown said she remembered the leaky roofs, the cramped classrooms and those sweaty or freezing days indoors.

“It was hard to stay focused. It was hot, you didn’t want to be here. But now it’s like everything is back to normal,” Brown said. “I’m very excited and I love it. This is amazing.”

There will be a community march Saturday at 10 a.m. from the district's Village Fair campus, where students have been the past two years, to South Oak Cliff High School, followed by an official ribbon cutting ceremony and tour for the community and alumni.

NBC 5's Maria Guerrero contributed to this report.

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