DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The meeting went on for hours, eventually adjourning around 11:00 p.m. Thursday, but the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) board eventually decided to rebuild one school destroyed by tornadoes in October and renovate another.
Saying they want to restructure more schools to offer additional grade levels, the Dallas ISD board voted unanimously to rebuild Cary Middle School as a pre-K through 8th grade campus, combining Carey with Walnut Hill Elementary.
But board members lingered for hours deciding the future of Thomas Jefferson High School. There had been an option to spend more than $120 million to partially demolish and rebuild the high school. Members could have also chosen to completely tear down the school and rebuild — at a cost of $147 million.
In the end the board of trustees voted 6-3 on a cheaper option that means putting some $82 million into extensive renovations.
“I think there were strong arguments for doing the replacement and there were arguments for doing the renovation,” said trustee Edwin Flores.
The plan for Jefferson now is to demolish and rebuild the most damaged areas of the school and keep newer additions made to the building and areas that were not significantly damaged.
But Flores warned the extent of the damage to the school isn’t really known, and that means you don’t know what the final cost for repairs will be. “We don’t know what has really, truly has happened in that building. We do know engineers have gone in, but you just never know what has happened or what they’ll discover,” he said. “With any kind of renovation — and I’ve done a lot of home renovations in North Dallas — and I can tell you, you open the walls and you discover things you just did not know were going to be there.”
The reaction of Thomas Jefferson students, who are attending class at the Edison Learning Center, was mixed. Sophomore Marlin Viguer said, “I wish they had rebuilt that school to show the city, the state, [and] the country that we [students] are something important to them… something important to that school.”
More than 2,800 are still displaced as a result of the 2019 tornadoes. The goal of the district is to have all those students settled by the time classes begin in 2022.