Dallas Voters Say Yes To $1.6 Billion For Schools, So What Happens Next? | KERA News

Dallas Voters Say Yes To $1.6 Billion For Schools, So What Happens Next?

Nov 4, 2015

On Tuesday, Dallas voters passed the largest school bond package in the district’s history. So what happens next? Here’s a look at what residents can expect.

As the elections results rolled in, so did the questions. Like, what gets built first? And when? At a watch party in West Dallas, board trustee Edwin Flores said the first step is to get the $1.6 billion bond package ready for sale.

“I think the plan right now is to sell maybe about $400 million in this first round and then maybe 500 in the next 12 to 18 months,” Flores said. “It really depends on construction. It depends on the market. It depends on a lot of things on when that money is needed.”

Whatever the initial amount, Flores says he hopes the bonds will be sold soon so the district can take advantage of low interest rates. Then, construction projects can go out for bids.

“You want to balance when you get the money so you can start the work,” Flores said. “But once you borrow the money, then you start accruing interest, and so you do have to be conservative about both of those things.”

Under the spending plan, the biggest chunk of money – nearly $465 million – will pay for nine new schools. That includes two high schools, four elementary schools, two pre-K through 8th grade schools and a school for third through 8th grade students.

Nearly $200 thousand is going to build 326 new classrooms. There’s also money for improvements to libraries, science labs, cafeterias and technology. The rest of the bond package will go toward buying land, facility improvements and new programs, like career and technology and expanding early childhood education.

Which projects come first isn’t clear yet, but Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said there is a sense of urgency.

“We’ve said all along that one of the reasons we wanted it now is so that we could start construction projects even next summer,” Hinojosa said. “So there are gonna be some big packages that have to go out right away for us to start having an impact next summer.”

In Dallas, the median age of school buildings is 47 years and the wear and tear is visible in many of them. Overcrowding is another issue.

At Edward Titche Elementary in Southeast Dallas, numerous portable buildings house classrooms. Isaac Faz, who co-chaired the district’s Future Facilities Task Force, says having that many is a safety concern.

“When we visited different schools, I mean it was really sort of eye opening to realize that there are so any portables and so many classrooms that are in portable buildings within DISD,” Faz said. “And that’s one of the issues that we really need to address, whether we’re building a new school or adding additions, we really want to focus on removing as many portables from DISD as possible.”

Over in West Dallas, it’s the opposite – Pinkston High School is under capacity. During a recent visit there, Faz talked about why building a new Pinkston and adding a career and technology program could attract more students.

“So what would mean is it would create a regional hub in West Dallas where students can come get specific training on some of these programs, and then from there they’re always able to go into some sort of career or go on and receive a certificate only one or two years after high school,” he said.

There were critics of the bond election. Some opponents questioned the projects that were selected and wondered why other schools weren’t included.

Tuesday night, Board president Eric Cowan said trustees do want to look at the schools that are getting all the necessary improvements.

“When you have $4 billion in needs and only ask for $1.6 (billion), there are still going to be needs that need to be addressed,” Cowan said. “We’ll look to how to plan for those in the future.”

You can see a breakdown of the DISD bond program here.