Dallas ISD Trustees to Decide Fate of Schools Damaged by October Tornado

The schools that were damaged are Cary Middle School, Thomas Jefferson High School and Walnut Hill Elementary

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Dallas ISD schools still hang in limbo three months after being severely damaged from the tornado that ripped through Northwest Dallas in October.

District trustees on Thursday night will make a major decision on the fate of those campuses. This comes after months of discussion and input from the community.

The schools that were damaged are Cary Middle School, Thomas Jefferson High School and Walnut Hill Elementary.  

No matter which plan is chosen, badly damaged Cary Middle School will have to be replaced and will become Pre-K through 8th grade.

But for the other two schools, there are still some options the trustees are deciding at their meeting Thursday night, including whether to rebuild or renovate the existing structures.

Choosing to rebuild both buildings will place the total project price tag at just under $200 million, according to the district. While renovation would put the estimated expense just over $130 million.

But now, we're learning of a third option from trustee Edwin Flores of District 1, who will be leading the discussion at the meeting.

"I said what if we do partial replacement? Kept some of what's already there and what's new, relatively new from 2004. Kept that wing and kept the building we were adding on right now and then just replace the rest? So that dropped the price dramatically," he said. "I think that’s important and that is already taken into consideration with input from the community.”

Flores said whichever decision is made, there are other factors involved including the incorporation of modern day safety requirements.

"The city has a lot to say about what we can and can’t build and where. And if we rebuild, what are the new requirements? The schools were built 60 years ago and we haven’t built a new high school north of Northwest Highway in 67 years just to give you an idea. So this is a badly, desperately needed facility," he said. “What design features can we add to the building to make them both more secure from things happening outside the school? They will have tornado shelters. We can have that same design from scratch.”

Either way, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told reporters there will be funding for the project from a combination of district funds, insurance money and bond money.

“Some things that I know the administration agrees with, is the need for haste. We need those kids and families back in their schools," said Flores.

But while decisions will be made at the trustee meeting to move forward with architects and the procurement method, the next steps are not an overnight process. The district says it could take until August 2022 to get the schools back up and running.

Flores thanked students and parents who have been traveling to temporary locations for school. He said additional counselors have been added to those campuses to assist students through this transition.

"We are fortunate to have an old DISD facility to use as a temporary place for the students to go to a few miles away," he said. "It’s natural disasters and still it takes some adjustment. I think that we’re trying to provide those resources for those kids and the families."

Trustee Flores also thanked the community for their support in donations to help these schools rebuild, totaling so far at $4.5 million. He said the Dallas Education Foundation is helping provide oversight for those dollars.

"Thank those students and families that have stuck with us and are traveling all the way to their new locations. Thank you to the families who we split at the middle school because unfortunately, we didn’t have an option. We also want to thank the community, the outpouring of support, and philanthropic volunteers -- people helping our students and wanting to help, wanting to be involved," he said.

Contact Us