Lake Highlands’ “We Need a School” Speaks Out

Lake Highlands WHITEROCKELEMENTARY SITE PLAN After a round of norovirus bludgeoned our house, I am finally able to come back to my original story about White Rock Trail Elementary – or rather, the proposed site for it.

In my previous two stories, I talked to a representative of “We Have a Voice,”  Lake Highlands neighbors who are heading the opposition to the site, and to a representative from Richardson Independent Schools. You can read the first story here. The follow up is here.

Next, I reached out to Nathan Jacks, of “We Need a School,” the Lake Highlands neighbors that are for the proposed site, for his take on the situation.

I emailed Jacks questions, and he responded. In the interest of complete transparency, my questions and his responses verbatim are below.

BE: “How much of the neighborhood wants the school in the spot that the district has chosen?”

Jacks: “There is a negative bias in the numbers opposing the school that emailed City Council Member McGough. If the planning and demo are already in process, there is no incentive to email support for what’s already happening. In fact, it is remarkable that approximately 15% of the emails CM McGough has received are supporting the school.

It is false to claim most residents oppose the proposed school site. ‘We Have A Voice’ actually has a map on their website that shows it is a minority of residents that are part of the opposition. The group went door to door across much of the neighborhood soliciting membership, and limited numbers joined their cause.”

BE: “What are the things your group is happy about regarding the site?”

Jacks: “The new school site is central to current attendance boundaries and is an available solution to the urgent problem of overcrowding at White Rock Elementary. The teachers and administration at WRE are doing an excellent job managing the current size of the school, but it still has negative impacts outside their control. All schools have traffic and safety concerns, but overcrowded schools have more.”

BE: “Is there anything you’re unhappy about regarding the site?”

Jacks: “The proposed site has limitations that are valid concerns. Other options I have heard proposed would have similar or even more limitations. Many of these named limitations would not exist if the district were to eminent domain centrally located residences, but I have not yet heard anyone volunteer their home.”

BE: “What concerns you the most if the district is delayed in building the school?”

Jacks: “Delay of any long-term solution to overcrowding is concerning. The interim fix to overcrowding is the district’s overflow policy. That policy has a disparate impact on multi-family residents. Historically students from multi-family are disproportionately sent to schools outside their attendance zones. Overflow can also split up families. One parent has shared with me that he is forced to send his children to one school and his foster children to another. It’s those stories that make me the most anxious for the overcrowding problem to be addressed.”

BE: “Is your group satisfied that the district will be able to overcome the deed restriction in place on the property, and why?”

Jacks: “It is our hope the school district is acting in good faith they can work with the city and residents to overcome the deed restriction. We object to anyone not working on a speedy solution to overcrowding at WRE, even the school district.”

Jacks added after the Q&A, “One of the allies for the ‘We Have A Voice’ group is Amy Adams, head of the White Rock North School, a private elementary school adjacent to the proposed site.”

“The White Rock North School has the same traffic and safety challenges as the proposed public school, yet Amy is supporting a group concerned about traffic and safety at that intersection,” he added.

The same day that Jacks responded, we also heard from another Lake Highlands resident. Peggy Hill, who has lived in Lake Highlands for 45 years, said she is against the proposed school site, talking about not only the neighborhood’s history but also the trust factor when it comes to zoning restrictions and deed restrictions.

“The entire community worked long and hard to get that restriction placed on the property before allowing the zoning change required to build this office complex,” Hill explained of the deed restriction.  “The City Council and Plan  Commission approved that change that included this restriction.”

“Are we now not to trust the City, City Council and CPC to uphold and enforce deed restrictions?” Hill asked. “Why bother granting restrictions if they are not going to be supported to keep the promise to the community?”

“If this is the case, then let’s inform neighborhoods that deed restrictions will not be enforced at a later date,” she said. “Let’s inform the real estate media that this is the case.”

Hill, who is a longtime Realtor, says she worries that developers will have a harder time convincing communities to allow zoning changes after this, “with or without restrictions, because they are useless.”

“Ordinarily I am a trusting person when it comes to the city,” she said. “If this zoning is changed to allow a school, then my trust in the city has been shaken and I am sure many other residents will feel the same.”

Something tells me you all are about to engage in some spleen venting in the comments, so let me make it clear: No name calling, no hair-pulling, no accusations. We reserve the right to not publish comments that are unnecessarily vitriolic. Be neighborly – because you have to see these folks at the grocery store tomorrow.

4 Comment

  • I like when he says that one thing that he is happy about is that it is “available”. That’s a key part of any real estate decision.

  • I’m against the school, but no one ever knocked on my door.

  • Nathan Jacks failed to mention a substantial reason why the opposition to the WRT school has grown substantially — the initial boundary that RISD proposed for the school was so horribly inequitable that most of the single-family homeowners who were ready to support RISD and the new school turned against it. Stated simply, because the WRT location was starting out with such a disadvantage in terms of the lot size and its location, RISD needed to draw boundaries for WRT with an equal mix of single family and multi-family out of the existing WRE boundary, in a way that would have drawn maximum buy-in from the community and set that school up to succeed just as WRE has. RISD didn’t do anything close to that with its initial proposed boundary, and probably never intended to (despite what they said in Board meetings). Instead, RISD created a boundary for the new WRT school that had only two, small blocks of single family homes, separated by more than a mile, and actually took substantial numbers of multi-family housing out of WRE (already the most unequal school in LH), and stuck them in WRT. Moreover, the proposed WRT boundary was only designed to fill the school to half capacity, making it very suspicious to those impacted that RISD’s intention all along was for the WRT school to become the “Lake Highlands Overflow Elementary School” — not anything close to the successful, community-driven school that WRE is today. Many of those affected homeowners simply don’t trust RISD anymore.

  • Nathan Jacks failed to mention a substantial reason why the opposition to the WRT school has grown substantially — the initial boundary that RISD proposed for the school was so horribly inequitable that most of the single-family homeowners who were ready to support RISD and the new school turned against it. Stated simply, because the WRT location was starting out with such a disadvantage in terms of the lot size and its location, RISD needed to draw boundaries for WRT with an equal mix of single family and multi-family out of the existing WRE boundary, in a way that would have drawn maximum buy-in from the community and set that school up to succeed just as WRE has. RISD didn’t do anything close to that with its initial proposed boundary, and probably never intended to (despite what they said in Board meetings). Instead, RISD created a boundary for the new WRT school that had only two, small blocks of single family homes, separated by more than a mile, and actually took substantial numbers of multi-family housing out of WRE (already the most unequal school in LH), and stuck them in WRT. Moreover, the proposed WRT boundary was only designed to fill the school to half capacity, making it very suspicious to those impacted that RISD’s intention all along was for the WRT school to become the “Lake Highlands Overflow Elementary School” — not anything close to the successful, community-driven school that WRE is today. Many of those affected homeowners simply don’t trust RISD anymore