Update: HPISD Unveils Plans to Build New School in Dallas

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Durham Street to be overtaken by a drop-off/pick-up student valet service
Durham Street to be overtaken by a drop-off/pick-up student valet service

On February 25th the Caruth Hills Homeplace Neighborhood Association held an update meeting on the proposed school to be built on land HPISD acquired from the Northway Christian Church on Northwest Highway across from Sparkman- Hillcrest (talk about the circle of life). The new school is the result of a $361.4 million bond proposal passed last November that also includes rebuilding and refurbishment of other HPISD schools.

HPISD is an interesting bunch who take pride in probably exactly what you’d expect. For example, string together these puzzle pieces …

HPISD is saying it has lowered tax rates which in turn coincidentally reduce the amount they have to share with “Robin Hood.” But then they cry poor mouth about budget cuts. And finally, the best way for HPISD to demolish three schools, renovate a fourth and build a new fifth is to issue a bond because its proceeds and repayments are also not subject to sharing under “Robin Hood.”

Rather than taking pride in being lucky enough to share their overabundance with less-lucky school children, they seem to go out of their way to stiff those children. As I said, about what you’d expect.

HPISD 5 Side 1

But for all their largess, the school itself is architecturally unimpressive with a bland limestone-ish skirt topped by brick that more than one resident said could have been built in Plano, Allen or anywhere (translation: in less affluent communities). You see, the school’s design, along with this generation’s artfully misspelled names are a reflection of parents’ self-aggrandizement.

Recently walking through the area I came across a children’s lemonade stand. Where you and I would be peddling hand-stirred watery Country Time to learn about earning money, these kiddies were hawking Central Market fresh squeezed. Lessons about earning money were lost (the cost structure ensured a financial as well as educational loss) but the pretentious parents were able to hold their noses heads high.

As someone who hasn’t thought about school architecture since I threw my tasseled cap in the air for the last time thirty years ago, I was most surprised by its overwhelming focus on providing a drive-thru lane (on Durham). I’ve quipped before about being the last child to walk to school but one presenter pegged the number at a paltry 12-18-percent of children getting to school under their own power (walk/bike). The remaining 82-88 percent get valet service. Really?

So “School #5,” as it’s temporarily called, is built for the SUV brigade. How sad. Sadder still is that none of the parents present seemed to have an issue with this. Perhaps it’s just the dulling reality of today.

I was walking to school at least by third grade, possibly second. We walked a route where we picked up classmates resulting in an ever-larger gab session of fantastical childhood talk away from our parents. Our pinch of independence during those few blocks gave us confidence. When I was able to take a bus in high school, I still chose to walk, even though it was a mile away – unless the Chicago weather was particularly bad. It’s probably why I’m a lifelong walker hoofing 18 miles last weekend at a four MPH clip.

Stage set front facade
Stage set front facade

School #5 is so focused on the car that the building’s actual front façade is almost purely ornamental. The “main” entrance doors will be locked most of the time and those few children getting to school on their own will enter through the side where the drive-thru lane is. I got the impression that the façade was only there to impress the neighbors on Wentwood whose homes will face it.

When I went to school, all the doors were open. When we weren’t running late, we always chose to walk to the front of the building to enter through the grand (and sometimes not-so-grand) main entrance. It made us feel important and that the building was important. I’m wryly surprised that Park Cities’ parents would want their children entering through any side door.

HPISD 5 Traffic SM 1

Traffic was a big issue (as always?)

As you can see, nannies parents coming from the south will have to aim for Airline Road to begin the big circle around the block. Those coming from the west will back-up Northwest Parkway (Northwest Highway’s frontage road). Those coming from the east will also run into Airline. All in all, it’s a circle of one-way roads to ferry traffic in and out of the area. And with an estimated 770 students, of which just 90-138 will be arriving unaided by a vehicle, there will be a lot of cars (even factoring in car pools).

As with most schools, the effects will ripple for blocks surrounding the school. It will also effect Northwest Highway as the goal is to block turning from Northwest Highway to the south during school pick-up/drop-off hours. Seems a little Preston Center Task Force-ish of an issue to me.

As With Most Meetings, Q&A Tells the Story

There were many questions wanting to know about traffic, parking and to comment on the banality of the architecture. Many seemed not to have listened to the presentation nor passed a Civics class to understand HPISD’s (lack of) control of private and state lands. For example …

Some wanted the “Great Wall of University Park” that separates Coffee Park from Northwest Highway extended so there’s a looming fence stopping kids from running into Northwest Highway for those people parking on Northwest Parkway. Uh, no. The school can only construct fencing on its property.

Some wanted additional sidewalks across the street from the school. Uh, no. That’s private property and outside the control of HPISD.

Some wanted a traffic signal at Durham and Northwest Highway. Uh, hell no. That’s TXDoT and the last thing Northwest Highway needs is another damming traffic signal to further slow traffic.

One questioner wanted to know every detail of HPISDs deal with the church to lease some space to the church. The question dripped with an odd elitism wanting in part to ensure the church didn’t interact with the school. Normally, folks like these would love more Jesus in school, but perhaps in this case, Northway Christian Church is suspect because they offer services (shiver) in Spanish?

Turns out the space, less than 1,000 square feet will be hermetically sealed off from the school and will only be used a sporadically by a few people who make toys for various children’s charity purposes. (Oh, the horror of teaching students about charity for the underprivileged … instead of the opera.)

… and then, just when you thought it was over … ding-ding-ding!

If only I played the piano!
If only I played the piano!

The last questioner wasn’t a questioner at all. He got up on stage and started a riff on his opposition to the school, feeling it was unnecessary and that HPISD officials had lied through their teeth to pass the bond and that they should be jailed for fraud.

If there were chains handy, he’d surely been led off in them. As it was, he was surrounded by the representatives on the dais and some audience members and nearly tossed off the stage with much harrumphing by the audience.

And so ended the meeting!

Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! sharewithjon@candysdirt.com

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. A. B. says

    I am a huge proponent of walking to school and my kids walked 3 blocks to Bradfield for years–rain, blazing sun, whatever. I truly wish more parents would let their kids walk but even on my block almost all the kids get to school by car. I can walk there faster than they can get through carpool line but that doesn’t seem to matter. Carpool in this area is a total mess and a drive-thru lane isn’t so unusual for a new school. It alleviates street traffic somewhat. Hang out around Bradfield during 8 a.m. rush hour/carpool and revel in the joy of the current situation.

    Also, considering this school will serve students from every nook and cranny in the entire district as new schools are demolished and come online, the walkers will be very few and far between at times. From Northway Christian to the most southern part of HP is almost 5 miles. Were you up for walking that in elementary? I doubt it.

    Locked down schools with one entrance are the norm now in the interest of ‘safety’.

    Love your writing usually, but all the potshots at HPISD parents are just furthering the old stereotype. Please find some new fish (line-caught, organic, ahi tuna?) in a new barrel (gold-plated? with a limestone-ish skirt?) to go after. It’s getting really, really old.

  2. Jon Anderson says

    A.B, I understand that until school #5 has full-time students in 2020 the vast majority of their students will be coming from unrealistic distances for walking. That’s a temporary issue. I also understand that the valet-brigade is almost universal. I’ve been caught in it surrounding schools in many areas of Dallas. School “speed zones” aren’t for kids, they’re for cars.
    It’s sad that children are supervised every second of the day. It saddens me that a byproduct of this hovering instills an unsaid fear of the world that impairs confidence and independence. (I’d have hated it). I also (unfortunately) understand the “safety” argument for locking down schools (I don’t agree with it totally, but I understand its basis in fear). But to close the “main” entrance? Why even have it?
    Finally, what you saw as “potshots” were my reading either the HPISD website or the tone of the questions posed by residents. For example, when multiple attendees complained about the architecture, they specifically stated it could have been in those other suburbs. The only translation is that it wasn’t special enough for a community that wants for nothing.
    As for me personally, I am very data and fairness driven. I have as much issue with the silliness of granola set who wax about “honey hand-squeezed from a bee’s bum by the Dalai Lama” as I do about those who feel entitled. While I feel entitled to running water and a flush toilet, I feel lucky/thankful to have more, regardless of the brains and hard work it took to get it.

  3. KJB says

    As a full-time working mother in the Park Cities I find your snide comment about nannies completely offensive. You would prefer that I give up my job as a software consultant or perhaps enroll my kids at a germ-infested day care? Geesh, I’m used being judged by other women but I didn’t know “HOA and condo columnists” were now fighting the Mommy Wars.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      You’re right. I shouldn’t have singled out those fortunate enough to afford a nanny. (Now isn’t there something you want to say to those less fortunate who must use “germ-infested day care” to care for their children?)
      But the central point of this piece was that today’s schools, regardless of the income bracket of the parents, have been architecturally transformed by valet service for kids. Few walk, fewer take a bus (which would at least consolidate many individual journeys). It’s cars and the resulting traffic that are changing the school architecture and neighborhoods.

      • Amy says

        Am I now allowed to be offended about someone being snide about my kid’s germ-infested daycare?

        (Pumpkin, go sneeze on that nice lady’s child.)

        Let’s all just give it a rest with the “snide” and the “offended,” okay? We’re all just doing the best we can for our kiddos, and we need to appreciate the blessings we’ve got to give them.

        Too much outrage for a Monday.

    • Bill G. says

      One of the best things you could ever do for your kids is to send them to that “germ-infested day care” to build up their immune systems.

      I recall a top epidemiologist recommending, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, feeding kids a spoonful of dirt every day for that that purpose. It has been shown that kids who grow up in “dirty” environments like farms are healthier and have far fewer allergies. And over-reliance on antibiotics is now strongly suspected of causing childhood obesity.

      • mmJon Anderson says

        I too had read that there may be a link between weight gain and giving very young children antibiotics. Something about the antibiotics killing some good bacteria from the gut that never returns.

        • KJB says

          I’m not surprised that you singled out the “germ-infested” part of my comment instead of focusing your own judgmental criticism of parenting choices which is a thread running through the entire article.

          I was illustrating that someone is going to say something negative about whatever choice you make: stay-at-home mom is not using her brain / degree; Day care is unsafe, dirty. These things are not okay to say, but nannies are fair game!

          You clearly don’t know anything about the people who live here or and you definitely didn’t do any research into how many kids currently walk and bike to the elementary schools. I’d challenge you to find another school in the Dallas area with more children who walk or bike.

          Candy, you might want to get a writer to cover HPISD who doesn’t hate the school district and all the people in it. Definitely not amusing. Just more of the same bitter, envious tripe that I’m used to reading plus a dollop of parental judgement without any offering any solutions.

  4. Mrs. L says

    I enjoyed reading your article , except you might be a bit harsh, this is a great community overall with significant “sharing” .. However I have objections to the plan for #5:
    1. I am opposed to underground parking garages. I maintain that it is contrary to a safe school practice. Recent crimes in parking garages have hardened my position on this issue.
    2. I feel every effort should be made to reduce carpools and queues and instead require walking or biking, creating an environment friendly atmosphere. I have noticed that the more we awkwardly regulate traffic, the worse it becomes. The lines and backups now make it very difficult to navigate the neighborhood, and more difficult to walk or bike. We are smart enough to handle pickup/dropoff without being herded. See this article for inspiration https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/02/23/this-danish-city-is-so-bike-friendly-even-kindergartners-ride-to-school/
    3. agree the building looks more like a corporate data center than a neighborhood school. Form follow function. Why have a main door that’s not used…
    4. Flipping the design to have the green space in the neighborhood would be safer and a better aesthetic for the homes nearby

    • mmJon Anderson says

      Thank you for your even-tempered concerns. (I must admit I didn’t think I was being that harsh. My goal is amusing snark, but friends and commenters have told me otherwise on this one.)

  5. Cat says

    Your comments about those who work hard to be able to live in the Park Cities and to help make it a great place to live are disgusting. I don’t know who you are or anything about you but you’re way out of line.

  6. The_Overdog says

    You can tell the front door is ornamental because the sidewalk doesn’t even go to the stairs in any of the renderings!

    And even though people complained it is generic, it actually has too many windows to look enough like a prison to fit in the suburbs for the most part. In short, it would be an above-average school there.

  7. W.U.D. says

    About. Robin Hood FAQ. Recapture of tax collections to the compressed rate is about 65.5 percent, or $75.1 million for the 2014-15 school year. Since 1991-92, HPISD taxpayers have paid more than $1.2 billion to the state in total recapture dollars.
    Candy’s Dirt was always a great read but your article is simply below the belt, uninformed and “dirty”. The schools are the best in the state because of involved parents, community, the best educators and largely upon students who work hard and take it seriously. We have been and always will be concerned about decisions that effect the future of of schools perhaps lagging districts should take note.
    I would challenge you to see beyond old stereotypes, shallow rhetoric and take note that there is a reason this is such a wonderful neighborhood. There are many other examples but I have worked hard to move into this neighborhood. Money does not buy success as I am guessing your were compensated for this piece.

  8. Laura Tyson says

    Very late to this thread but the que lane is actually required by the city of Dallas and Margot Murphy will not allow them to remove it from the plan. It’s an effort to move carpool traffic off Durham.

    Also, I work from home and I have an amazing nanny to help me so that my kids are home more and I get to see them more this way. It costs a fortune. I can barely afford it – but it’s worth it to me. So many assumptions and misconceptions are made about our neighborhood and the people in it. I’m not offended. I just find it stupid and worse than that – I find it booooring! We had a saying at Texas A&M: “from the outside looking in you can’t understand it and from the inside looking out you can’t explain it.” I think it works here too. Trying to get you or anyone else to understand my choice as to where to live and raise my kids in this godforsaken metroplex is not really my problem and quite frankly, a waste of my time.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      The point I was trying to make is that schools have become more reliant on cars for child transportation than when I went. This is not an HPISD thing, it’s a national thing. The only difference is the age of the SUV and the relationship of the driver. I’m all for working mothers, mine did. I’m also in wonderment at how few children walk to school and the tangible impact this has had on school architecture.

      Finally, please don’t assume that the only reason someone doesn’t live in Park Cities is because they can’t afford to, nor that they are too stupid to read the tenor of a room.

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