GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – The push to house hundreds of unaccompanied kids in shelters across North Texas could come down to a key visit on Friday. Dallas County officials have identified Lamar Alternative Education Center in Grand Prairie as one of three places that it wants to use for those children. But it is not a done deal.
The vacant school must first pass a federal inspection before it gets the green light.
While officials in Dallas County want to use the school as a possible shelter for children detained at the southern border, the building is far from ready. The plumbing needs to be upgraded along with the kitchen and sprinklers.
People packed into a Grand Prairie school board meeting on Thursday night to voice their thoughts on this issue, and the opinions are split. The meeting saw 20 people speak, with 11 being in support of using Lamar Alternative Education Center and nine people objecting to the plan. Many of those who attended the information meeting were neighbors who live near the school building.
“Your duties are written to support the children and residents of this city,” said one speaker.
“These children aren’t here asking to be put up in the Ritz-Carlton,” added another speaker. “They’re not asking for eggs benedict for breakfast.”
Grand Prairie school district officials stated that leasing the building to the federal government for several months would be one way to upgrade the facility for any future use without using local tax dollars.
A federal assessment team took another look at the property on Friday to determine its viability. If the school building passes the inspection, the Grand Prairie school board must then vote on the proposal. Superintendent Susan Hull said that the final decision could still be weeks away.
Dallas County Commissioners Court Judge Clay Jenkins has said all along that the goal is to have these shelters ready by the end of July. But the fire chief in Grand Prairie said, if they want to use the school building, that goal will not be met. The building was designed for teaching students and it will require many renovations to become a place that houses and feeds children.
“It will not happen by the end of July,” said Chief Robert Faite. “We’re two weeks to the end of the month. It’s going to take two weeks to design and plan systems, so I can’t even give you a timeline.”
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