November 7, 2016
Dr. Stone announced at the November 7 Board meeting that the district is no longer pursuing the White Rock Trail site as an option to address enrollment growth at White Rock Elementary, and planning related to a new school at the property was suspended indefinitely the first week of November.
The architects (Corgan) and zoning consultants (Masterplan) stopped all efforts related to a new school on the WRT site the first week of November. The district has no plans or intent to submit an application to the City for a building permit, and is looking forward to the upcoming process of engaging the community regarding alternatives. The construction firm (Cadence McShane) currently operating on the site is making it safe and in compliance with code requirements, and the site will exist as an unused property, maintained by RISD.
Dr. Stone has committed that the site will not be used for a school without the support of the community. This decision was made so productive discussions with the White Rock Elementary community, led by the new growth/planning consultants (Stantec), could occur without the property being a divisive factor. The only way RISD would utilize the WRT site for a school is if the community supported it as part of the growth planning process that the consultants are preparing to begin.
New Elementary School
Why is RISD building a new elementary school in the White Rock attendance zone?
The purpose of the new school on White Rock Trail is to alleviate overcrowding caused by continued enrollment growth at White Rock Elementary.
Is the District planning for adequate parking?
The new school’s approximate 250 parking spaces will offer more than twice the dedicated parking available at each of the last four elementary schools built by RISD, and approximately 100 parking spaces more than what is currently available at Lake Highlands Junior High. RISD’s goal is to balance safe and convenient entrance and egress for students and their families with responsible use of land – including ample green space and play areas.
Would daily pick up & drop off occur in the parking garage?
Zones for daily pick up and drop off include some inside the parking garage, and some outside. The goal of the design is to alleviate bottlenecks of cars during pick up and drop off, so the process can be efficient.
Will the garage be designed with ventilation systems?
Yes, the garage will have a ventilation system as required by the International Mechanical Code and the International Building Code as adopted by the City of Dallas. Fresh air will constantly be provided into the space. Air quality in the space will be monitored throughout by multiple air sensors that activate exhaust systems as required to maintain a constant safe fresh air supply.
Does the site offer enough play area and green space?
The site offers ample green and play space for students, based on other RISD elementary campuses as well as comparable projects in nearby districts. The approximate 2-acre usable play area is larger than:
- RISD’s Greenwood Hills Elementary (686 student capacity/1.51 acre play area)
- Highland Park ISD’s new elementary school (770 student capacity/1.07 acre play area)
- Garland ISD’s Daugherty Elementary (746 student capacity/.5 acre play area)
Will all students be able to all use the play area for the time allotted to recess?
At all RISD elementary schools, students in different grade levels use outdoor play areas for recess at staggered times throughout the day. Based on experiences at each of RISD’s current elementary schools, a similar model and schedule will be used at the new school, and all students will have the time, space and equipment to enjoy their recess.
What is the projected cost of the new elementary school at White Rock Trail? How does this cost compare to similar projects or other elementary schools?
RISD’s construction-only cost for the new elementary school at White Rock Trail is estimated to be $25.07 million. The total estimated cost is $29.628 million. The total estimated cost includes the construction cost plus the cost of equipment, fixtures, furniture, technology infrastructure, architect/engineer fees, land surveys, zoning consultants, material & geotechnical testing. The total cost for a school is typically 15-25% higher than the construction cost.
The new elementary school being built by Highland Park ISD, a multi-story campus on a similarly sized lot, has a total estimated cost of $33 million.
A number of other recently built or planned elementary schools in Texas ISDs have estimated construction costs similar to or higher than the estimated costs of the WRT school.
How was the White Rock Trail site selected?
RISD continued to evaluate sites after the White Rock Trail property was purchased, and again determined that the WRT location was the best site available for a new school from among available options in the area.
During discussions related to bond planning and enrollment growth, RISD began evaluating potential sites for land acquisition in the Fall of 2015 near the areas of most significant enrollment growth in Lake Highlands. The area is well developed, and existing property and sites both on and off the market were evaluated. The White Rock Trail site was evaluated in early 2016, and architects confirmed the site could accommodate an elementary school. Based on evaluations of a number of sites in the area, RISD staff felt the WRT site was the best location available and would provide the Board of Trustees with an option to accommodate enrollment growth directly in the K-6 attendance area experiencing the highest levels of growth in RISD.
Did RISD consider using eminent domain to secure a site?
RISD staff and the Board recognized that the possibility existed for the district to use eminent domain to secure property from area businesses, homeowners or property owners, but did not pursue it as a desirable option.
What other sites were considered for the new school?
RISD considered more than 15 potential sites for a new elementary school, including land the district currently owns at LHHS and LHJH. Consistent with evaluations of previous school sites in RISD, the merits of different potential sites were discussed by Trustees in closed sessions to allow the district to remain competitive in negotiations to secure land. The merits of different potential sites were discussed by Trustees in closed sessions to allow the district to remain competitive in negotiations to secure land. RISD is choosing to keep the specific locations confidential so negotiations can be competitive in the event the district pursues one or more of the sites in the future.
Site & Surrounding Area
Is White Rock Trail capable of handling the traffic a new elementary school will bring?
Yes, according to the traffic engineering study completed as part of the planning process. The preliminary stie design provides for more on-site traffic management than what is currently available at any of our other elementary schools.
Off-site traffic concerns are the management responsibility of the City of Dallas. RISD will work closely and collaboratively with the City to address traffic and sidewalk patterns, as the District has in the past, to provide a safe environment for children.
Other RISD elementary schools are similarly situated and handle pick up and drop off traffic with substantially less on-site space than the White Rock Trail site will have.
Who completed the traffic study and what were its conclusions?
The traffic engineering study (TES) was completed by firm DeShazo & Associates, which has a lengthy history of work on projects within the City of Dallas. The TES is a required part of the planning process with the City of Dallas, and includes both a traffic impact analysis and a traffic management plan. The study evaluates the impact of traffic from the proposed site on public streets, determines if the site design can accommodate traffic loads at peak times, and makes recommendations to the design of the site to best manage traffic flow to reduce the impact on public streets.
Highlights of the traffic engineering study include:
Would White Rock Trail be widened?
- The amount of queue space for cars on the site as designed exceeds City of Dallas requirements for peak periods during pick-up and drop-off times. This means that the study projects there is more than enough space designed within the site to accommodate cars during peak pick-up and drop-off periods.
- The district should build a deceleration lane on the west side of White Rock Trail, taken from the front of the property, for traffic travelling southbound turning into the school. This lane will further mitigate the impact of traffic on White Rock Trail during peak periods of drop-off and pick-up.
- Recommendations for City of Dallas consideration include altering the timing of traffic lights and/or the addition of a signal arrow at the Walnut Hill/White Rock Trail intersection during peak drop-off and pick-up periods, and restripe and maintain pedestrian crosswalks at Walnut Hill and White Rock Trail.
- Other than the addition of a deceleration lane on school property along White Rock Trail, additional widening of White Rock Trail is not recommended by the study.
RISD is designing the site under the assumption that no improvements will be made to White Rock Trail. The decision to widen or improve public roads or property is the responsibility of the City of Dallas.
The traffic study does not include widening White Rock Trail among its recommendations to the City of Dallas.
Why would early Information from Corgan include a recommendation on expanding WRT but the traffic study not include this as a recommendation?
Corgan is an architectural firm and not a traffic engineering firm. For that reason, Corgan (and most other architectural firms) rely on the expertise of traffic engineering firms to conduct traffic engineering studies required as part of the planning process. DeShazo & Associates is the professional traffic engineering firm that conducted the traffic study, and based on their evaluation of the site, observed traffic patterns and volume, preliminary design plans and City requirements related to the ability of the site to accommodate vehicles, did not recommend that WRT needed to be widened. The study did recommend that an additional lane be added to the school site along White Rock Trail in front of the school for deceleration, and is one component of the study’s recommendations that will mitigate the traffic impact of the site on public streets.
Will the new school have a school zone, cross walks and crossing guards?
These are components that fall under the responsibility of the City of Dallas. Through the planning process with the City, RISD will work with the City to request that these components be considered, which is typical of the planning process for a new school.
Would emergency vehicles have access to the site?
Yes, the preliminary site plans include full access for emergency vehicles via the multiple driveway lanes that surround the perimeter of the site. Appropriate fire lanes are a required element of the planning process with the City.
What consideration has been given regarding an evacuation plan in the event of a fire/emergency?
The site design will include full access by emergency vehicles as required by City of Dallas code. At all RISD elementary schools, in the case of a fire drill, students and staff are trained to exit the building swiftly and efficiently, and meet at specified locations outside and away from the building. Not all staff and students meet in the same location outside of schools during an evacuation. Before opening any new school in RISD, architects, district staff and safety personnel will review and provide input on the design of the evacuation plan, in accordance with requirements under the fire code as part of the planning process with the City of Dallas. The fire exit routes and evacuation plans will also be evaluated and approved by Dallas Fire Dept. personnel prior to the building’s opening.
Each school layout and site is unique, and the preliminary design includes fire/emergency exits from the school to the north, east, south sides of the building. These exits will allow staff and students to move away from the building to gather at different locations clear of the building, as practiced through drills. As the project progresses through the design process, the different locations for students to gather will be determined and finalized, but architects anticipate there being ample space on the exterior grounds of the site to accommodate evacuations in accordance with safety requirements.
What type of division will there be between the DART area (sidewalk to station, tracks) and the school?
RISD believes the school site is in a very safe location related to the DART tracks. The school site would be separated from DART tracks by two tall fences and dense trees/foliage. No access points or gates will exist between the tracks and the school site, which will be elevated from the tracks up a slope. Architects conceptualize a barrier at the northern face of the site along the sidewalk leading under Walnut Hill to the DART station to prevent access. This element will be included in the detailed site and school designs that architects are currently preparing. The detailed site and school designs are expected to be ready by the end of December.
What type of security will be used to ensure DART riders don’t wander into the underground parking lot, play area, etc?
In addition to the barrier and fencing referenced above, site security at the WRT school will be similar to the security elements installed at other RISD schools/facilities, and may include signage, barriers, fencing, gates and/or surveillance systems.
Does the language in the deed prevent RISD from building a school on the site?
While the matter is somewhat complicated and RISD continues to work with the City of Dallas, the district believes it can legally build a school on the site.
Is the new school at White Rock Trail and Walnut Hill the only proposed solution to address enrollment growth in Lake Highlands?
No, the new elementary school is one part of the overall, long-term strategic plan to address growth in LH. Other components include a second new elementary school for the Lake Highlands feeder pattern and 24 new classrooms at Lake Highlands High School. Additionally, library renovations at all schools will increase usability of the largest educational space on campus while making libraries compatible with the way today’s students learn.
RISD has been managing recent enrollment growth by constructing additional classrooms at schools experiencing growth in their attendance area. Overall, 52 classrooms have been added to nine Lake Highlands-area schools since 2012. Thirteen of the 52 classrooms were added to LH junior high schools: 10 at Forest Meadow Junior High and three at Lake Highlands Junior High. The LH-area junior high schools are currently capable of handling projected enrollment as students currently in elementary schools matriculate through the feeder pattern. However, the RISD Board of Trustees reviews updated enrollment projections annually and works with staff to accommodate growth, allocating funds for additional construction projects as needed.
Where will the second new elementary school in Lake Highlands be located, and what attendance boundaries would be impacted?
RISD is currently evaluating sites for consideration. The targeted area will be on the eastern side of the Lake Highlands zone, on either side of 635, approximately between Abrams Rd. and Royal Lane.
The intent of the second new school, with accompanying attendance boundary changes, would be to provide classroom space relief to Aikin, Forest Lane, Skyview, Stults Road and Wallace elementary schools.
Is Lake Highlands Junior High projected to need additional classrooms?
Per the most recent demographer’s report, Lake Highlands Junior High is not expected to need additional classrooms over the current bond cycle from 2016-2021. Farther out, the school is projected to surpass 90 percent of capacity in the following bond cycle and additional classroom space would be considered for inclusion in a potential 2021 Bond. If demographic projections are inaccurate and additional space is needed sooner, then RISD could consider adding classrooms sooner, funded through one-time use of operating funds or other non-bond funding sources.
Renovations at LHJH over the last year have resulted in the addition of three classrooms from space previously used for other purposes.
Are the junior high schools at capacity? Have minutes been added to passing periods at the junior highs, are there enough gym lockers and desks at the junior highs?
Neither Forest Meadow or Lake Highlands junior highs are at capacity, nor is either school at 90 percent of capacity, at which point the district would consider adding space. Minutes have not been added to the passing periods at either school. Some students at LHJH share lockers for P.E./Athletics, which is a common practice in RISD and has occurred at other schools around the district. There are enough desks for every student at both schools.
Forest Meadow is not expected to approach 90 percent of capacity for the foreseeable future per projections. Lake Highlands JH is not expected to need additional classrooms over the current bond cycle from 2016-2021. Farther out, the school is projected to surpass 90 percent of capacity in the following bond cycle and additional classroom space would be considered for inclusion in a potential 2021 bond package. If demographic projections are inaccurate and additional space is needed sooner, then RISD could consider adding classrooms sooner, funded through one-time use of operating funds or other non-bond funding sources.
What is being done to accommodate enrollment growth at LHHS and LHJH, and what has been done to keep the facilities and infrastructure of both schools updated and ready for more students?
The capacity of Lake Highlands HS is being expanded by 24 classrooms to accommodate the enrollment growth in the LH area that would otherwise push the school past 90 percent of capacity. Funding for these classrooms was included in the 2016 bond package, and the expanded capacity projects to accommodate LHHS’s enrollment needs for the foreseeable future. LHHS underwent a comprehensive renovation in 2007, and since the 2001 bond, has had equipment and infrastructure updated each year, based on long-range facilities plans. In addition, planning in advance of bond packages includes evaluation of instructional equipment/materials for replacement or upgrade. Some of the updates at LHHS have included:
Lake Highlands Junior High, per the most recent demographer’s report, is not expected to need additional classrooms during the current bond cycle from 2016-2021. Farther out, the school is projected to surpass 90 percent of capacity in the following bond cycle (in 2022-2023) and additional classroom space would be considered for inclusion in a potential 2021 Bond. If demographic projections are inaccurate and additional space is needed sooner, then RISD could consider adding classrooms sooner, funded through one-time use of operating funds or other non-bond funding sources. Renovations at LHJH over the last year have resulted in the addition of three classrooms from space previously used for other purposes.
- Exterior & entrance renovation to the configuration that exists currently
- Additional of classroom space as part of the 2006 bond
- Classroom technology upgrades & building-wide network infrastructure upgrades
- Addition of science wing & renovation of science labs
- Replacement of windows & lights
- Complete auditorium renovation
- Plumbing & restroom replacements & upgrades
- Fine arts classrooms/facilities upgrades
- Athletics fields/facilities upgrades
- HVAC & electrical upgrades & replacements
- Security systems & camera upgrades
- Cafeteria & kitchen renovation & equipment replacement
- Updating of wall tiles
- Roof replacement
LHJH underwent a renovation in 2004, and like LHHS, since the 2001 bond, has had equipment and infrastructure updated each year, based on long-range facilities plans. In addition, planning in advance of bond packages evaluates instructional equipment/materials for replacement or upgrade. Some of the updates at LHJH have included:
Also, as part of Bond 2016, the science labs at LHJH will be upgraded and the auditorium will be renovated.
- Renovations of existing space added three classrooms in advance of the 2016-17 school year
- Classroom technology upgrades & building-wide network infrastructure upgrades
- Exterior brick renovations & door replacements
- HVAC & electrical upgrades & replacements
- Pavement/sidewalk replacements
- Athletic facilities upgrades
- Interior & exterior lighting upgrades
- Plumbing & restroom replacements & upgrades
- Updated wall tiles
- Locker replacements
- Security systems & camera upgrades
Additional repair and renovation projects occur each year at both schools. In addition, the libraries at both campuses will be renovated into more modern, flexible learning environments as part of Bond 2016.
Where will the new school’s attendance zone come from?
The attendance boundaries of the new school are expected to be drawn from the existing boundaries of White Rock Elementary.
When will the attendance boundaries of the new school be announced?
The RISD Board received the initial recommendation of the attendance boundaries of the new school at its September 12 meeting. Dr. Stone and district staff are currently evaluating additional options, and there is not currently a timeline for a Board decision.
Will any current White Rock Elementary students be grandfathered to be able to stay at WRE once the new school at White Rock Trail is open?
In order to understand the attendance and space implications of any grandfathering decisions, attendance boundaries for the new school must first be finalized.
Where will the new school be zoned for junior high and high school?
The new school will be zoned to Lake Highlands Junior High and Lake Highlands High School, the same pattern as White Rock Elementary.
Will the new school be re-zoned to Forest Meadow JH?
No, the new school would share the same secondary feeder pattern that currently exists for White Rock Elementary.
Why do the recommended attendance boundaries result in different initial enrollments for White Rock Elementary and the new school?
White Rock Elementary is a larger building with a higher capacity than the WRT school as currently considered. RISD’s goal for every school is to operate at or below of 90% of capacity. Once a school reaches 90% of capacity, it becomes increasingly difficult for staff to manage operations, maintain flexibility in scheduling, and utilize common areas. For long-term planning purposes, if a school is projected to reach or exceed 90% of capacity for a sustained period, that triggers a district consideration of options to increase capacity in that school’s attendance area.
The initial enrollment of White Rock Elementary, if the new school opens in 2018-19, would include 653 students in a building with a 912 capacity, which can accommodate 821 students before reaching 90%. WRE’s enrollment would not be projected to significantly exceed approximately 650 students over the next decade, but if unexpected additional growth occurs, the school would maintain some capacity to accommodate additional students.
The initial enrollment of the White Rock Trail school, if opened in 2018-19, would include 356 students. The capacity of the WRT school has not been determined yet, but the working number is approximately 725, which could accommodate about 650 students before reaching 90 percent of capacity. There are sites within the WRT school boundary that are likely to be developed for housing in the future, and the district wanted to leave space for enrollment growth from those sites as well as potential future growth in the attendance area unrelated to those sites.
An option the Board has is to reduce the capacity of the new school below 725, which could also potentially increase the amount of outdoor play area available. The primary goal of building the new school is to ensure there will be enough space for students in this attendance area for decades, so while reducing the capacity of a possibility, it’s important that enough space remain to accommodate future growth.
Were efforts made to balance the diversity of both schools?
Yes, balancing the existing racial and economic diversity in the White Rock attendance area between both schools was one of the factors the RISD Board directed staff to consider when recommending boundaries. That guidance was the primary reason that students currently residing in the northwest corner of the current WRE attendance area remained zoned to WRE, even though the area would otherwise be contiguous with the recommended boundaries of the new school.
Is additional capacity being included in the new White Rock Trail school for the purpose of accommodating overflow from other schools?
No. The goal for the new school is to accommodate current and future students residing within the school’s attendance boundaries. There are sites within the recommended WRT school boundary that are likely to be developed for housing in the future, and the district wanted to leave space for enrollment growth from those sites and also potential future growth in the attendance area unrelated to those sites.
While it is unlikely that overflow will be completely eliminated in RISD, the district’s goal is to be able to accommodate every student at their K-6 neighborhood school or within their designated feeder pattern for special services. If enough capacity is created within each school’s attendance area, then overflow can be minimized at each school.
What special services would be included at the new school? Will students from outside the K-6 feeder pattern be brought in?
It is not a goal of the new school to create capacity for the purpose of serving students from outside the K-6 feeder pattern. It’s too early to know which or how many students might require special services in 2018 and beyond, but typically services like Pre-K or special education are considered for a school if there are enough students within the K-6 attendance area to support a program and if there is space. Some special services provide instruction to students across a group of nearby schools.
Has a committee of stakeholders been formed to meet and arrive at recommendations related to attendance boundaries of the new school?
A committee of stakeholders has not been formed. At the September 19 Board meeting, Dr. Stone indicated she wanted to delay the process of setting attendance boundaries of the new school and enlist assistance with that process from a firm with experience and expertise with redrawing boundaries. She also indicated she wanted to meet with neighborhood leaders to discuss options related to the boundary process.
The neighborhood leaders invited to that meeting included leadership of the White Rock Valley NA, Lake Highlands North HOA, White Rock Villas HOA, White Rock Place HOA, WRE PTA leaders, the WRE principal, the WRE Dad’s Club co-presidents, representatives of multi-family housing within WRE’s boundaries and the Dallas Councilman representing that area of the city.
It is not Dr. Stone’s intent for this group of community leaders to have multiple meetings or arrive at a recommendation. Rather, the meeting represented another avenue to communicate with and receive feedback from the leadership of the different stakeholder groups impacted by the eventual attendance boundaries of the new school. The feedback gained from the meeting will provide additional data points for RISD Trustees to consider.
Anyone with feedback about the boundary process for the new school can continue to provide their thoughts and ideas to the district by emailing email@example.com or calling 469-593-0301. A timeline for a decision on boundaries has not been determined.
RISD proposed initial attendance boundaries of the new school at the September 12 Board meeting. Has RISD proposed any revised attendance boundaries since?
At the September 19 Board meeting, Dr. Stone indicated she wanted to delay the process of setting attendance boundaries of the new school and enlist assistance with that process from a firm with experience and expertise with redrawing boundaries. While some members of the community have suggested variations of attendance boundaries, RISD has not proposed revised boundary recommendations since the initial boundaries were proposed. RISD is gathering stakeholder feedback and ideas related to attendance boundaries, and developing a timeline for the boundary decision to be made.