Dallas ISD plans K-12 campus on site of tornado-damaged Northwest Dallas schools

Insurance will not cover the full cost to rebuild tornado-damaged Dallas ISD campuses at Walnut Hill Elementary and Thomas Jefferson High School.

The schools were hit hard by the storm on October 20, but the district's insurance company does not consider them a total loss. Now, Dallas ISD is moving forward with a plan to create a k-12 campus where the three schools used to be.

The old Walnut Hill Elementary would become a career institute. Grades K-8 would go at the Carey Middle School site. Across the football field would be grades 9-12, where Thomas Jefferson High School is presently located.

“We have kids at Thomas Jefferson going to West Dallas for two years, has to be a sense of urgency” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa. “We can get this done.”

The proposal is to eventually make the now dual language elementary, tri-lingual with the addition of Chinese mandarin.

“This crisis is giving us the opportunity to be new and creative launch things that are exciting,” Hinojosa said.

But, the plans come with a price tag. The whole project is expected to cost more than $100 million, with insurance only covering $60-70 million.

“Can use savings as backup plan,” Hinojosa said.

The superintendent said keeping students in the same school from kindergarten through eighth grade is a popular model for private schools and for good reason.

“When they get there, they stay. Those families have eight to nine years of being at the same place adds stability.”

The district would need to turn another school, Polk Elementary, into K-8 for academically talented and gifted students to make the plan work capacity-wise. Five other neighboring elementary campuses would also become K-6 campuses.

Now that the district has laid out its plan, there will be time for the community to weigh in.

“Let me be clear, we are going to have community meetings,” said Stephanie Elizalde, chief of school leadership.

The first votes on these changes will be next month, when the board will need to approve construction contracts.

Community meetings are set for February.

Construction is set to start in September 2020 with the hope to get the schools open in August 2022.