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 Board President Leslie Melson taking pride in their lower school tax rates (compared to many other school districts) that save an average homeowner $2,704 a year.
- In another post, “Highland Park ISD is facing the same drastic budget cuts as other school districts across the state, according to preliminary figures released by the Texas Legislature.”
- HPISD peeved at having to share of their overflowing coffers because of 1991’s “Robin Hood” law that attempts to redistribute the wealth of places like Park Cities to underprivileged school districts. I wonder what lessons about sharing are taught at HPISD kindergartens?
- November 2015 bond issue for $361.4 million passes.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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