A crucial decision for a South Dallas school has been put on hold, as neighbors fight to save J.J. Rhoads Elementary.
Thursday night, Dallas Independent School District trustees agreed to delay a vote on how they would draw attendance zones for H.S. Thompson Elementary, which will reopen in 2021.
Thompson was one of several south Dallas schools closed by the district several years ago due to budget cuts and a declining population.
When that happened, Thompson’s students were moved to Rhoads.
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Now the district must decide whether they move some or all of the kids back to the new, state of the art facility.
“The discussion’s been going on for months at this point,” said Trustee Justin Henry.
It includes three options. One would be to resume the zoning that was in place before Thompson closed in 2013. Another would be to redraw the lines, placing some kids in both facilities. Henry said both would leave both schools underutilized. The final option is to move all students to Thompson and turn Rhoads into an early learning center.
But though the building wouldn’t be torn down, that final option isn’t sitting well with some in the neighborhood surrounding the school.
“We believe that schools are the anchor of any community. And whenever there’s a change in a school setting, then there’s changes in the community,” said Pastor Todd Atkins.
Atkins serves as the president of the South Dallas Fair Park Faith Coalition. His church has also played host to one of a half dozen community meetings organized for parents, kids and neighbors to share their thoughts with the district.
“They’re not just schools. They’re institutions. They’re where parents can take the next generation and say, ‘That’s where I used to play. That’s where I played football. That’s where my teacher was. That’s my principal.’ That’s what it’s all about,” said Atkins.
Friday, Atkins praised the Board of Trustees decision to delay a vote while seeking more input from the community.
It’s a conversation he and Henry agree is far from over.
“They’re rightful concerns, but I think the administration’s looking for grace. The community’s looking for grace, and we’re really trying to have folks come together so we won’t have that happen in the future where there’s mistrust or unaligned expectations,” said Henry.
Regardless of how the attendance lines are drawn, H.S. Thompson is scheduled to open in August of 2021.