North Texas

New Semester Brings New Chapter in South Oak Cliff High School Saga

The new year has brought a new chapter in the ongoing South Oak Cliff High School saga.

Two years after students walked out of class to protest the condition of their school, progress is being made.

On Tuesday, students will move to a temporary campus, Village Fair, while their building undergoes a $52 million renovation.

"The community, parents, alumni stakeholders, we fought for this move," said Pastor Maxie Johnson, whose son, David, was among the leaders of the protest.

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Johnson has been front and center in the nearly two-year fight to get the district to do something about the condition of the school, which students documented in pictures and distributed to local media.

The Dallas Independent School District told parents it would pour nearly $15 million into renovating the school, if a bond election was successful. Voters approved, but the community wanted more. The district poured in more funding, raising the total renovation price to $52 million.

"It's sad for the black community to have to fight this hard for our children just to be in a building where they can get a great education without any distractions," Johnson said. "[Village Fair] is a lot better than where we were at."

On Friday, movers carried in the final pieces of furniture and equipment, putting the final touches on the former alternative school for nearly 1,200 students.

The school's principal, Dr. Willie Johnson, said the district has taken the necessary steps to ensure the transition runs smoothly. Standardized testing begins soon.

"From a leadership perspective, it's our job to make sure everything is in place. We cannot have any hiccups with this. We don't want anything to negatively affect our students' performance," Johnson said.

With students out of the building the district plans to begin the $52 million renovation early this year. Johnson said parents still have major concerns about the project.

"We've been asking for a detailed plan from the district. They have not provided that to us," Maxie Johnson said.

The district plans to hold a meeting before the end of the month to address parents' concerns.

Johnson said the community is ready to keep fighting, but next week he wants students, like his daughter, to look out of the windows of Village Fair and see a brighter future for South Oak Cliff High School.

"The (temporary move) is just one part of it. We are going to make sure everything is done that is supposed to be done at South Oak Cliff High School," Maxie Johnson said.

To make the transition for students easier, the non-profit group "For Oak Cliff" is hosting a community block party on Monday, Jan. 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Village Fair, 4949 Village Fair Drive.

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