Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough says he’s got some ideas to offer on the logjam plaguing Richardson ISD as it works to solve overcrowded schools. Though members of the reflector committee and district officials continue meeting to seek solutions, and plans to purchase the property at Walnut Hill and White Rock Trail move ahead as planned, momentum for a single solution seems lacking. Opposition to the White Rock Trail site is growing due to traffic and safety concerns, and the numerous options – from K-6 to 5/6 to magnet school to middle school – have not yet rendered a clear solution.

McGough has been brainstorming with Park Board rep Robb Stewart, Adam Meierhofer and other current and former RISD trustees, city staffers and others. His proposal includes a partnership between the City of Dallas, RISD and Dallas Parks Department to build a K-6 STEAM Academy (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) east of Lake Highlands High. Ball fields would be relocated to the park across Church Road. The new Parks aquatics center would include swim facilities suitable for the Wildcat swim team.

It’s just a proposal, he says, a starting point for discussion. But he thinks it could work. Here’s why.

Like so many, I am paying extremely close attention to the plans for a May 2016 Bond package for RISD, both as a Citizen and the Dallas City Councilmember for District 10.  I have analyzed every proposal that I could find.  I have met with RISD Trustees multiple times and many community members over the last several months.

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The schools in Lake Highlands are an essential part of our community, but as the RISD and Lake Highlands community are keenly aware: We have a Problem! Our schools are overcrowded, and based on demographic information that overcrowding will get worse.  The concern of many is that, as a community, we will not be able to continue to provide the exceptional education experience that has brought so many families into our community and established our community as the Family Corridor of Dallas.  For decades, we have trusted our elected trustees to put the needs of our kids above all else.    

I believe the best decisions are made when the most viable options are given genuine analysis and critical scrutiny.  I also believe that creativity and innovation is needed to address such impactful and expensive issues. 

For these reasons, I have pondered every option and marshalled city resources in an attempt to provide additional options to RISD.  I engaged City parks staff, education experts, and several representatives familiar with RISD to offer suggestions and options in an attempt to add value to the discussions. 

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On Friday, February 5, 2016, along with the District 10 Park Board Representative, the leadership of our Dallas Parks Department, and a former RISD trustee, I presented a proposal to leverage resources and address the overcrowding issues in Lake Highlands to RISD leadership.  Recently, I discovered the options included in the proposal were not included in the 14 options shared with the reflector committee created by the District.

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I believe the public and the reflector committee should have the opportunity to discuss the merits of the proposal and offer input as to the viability of all or portions of this proposal.  In many ways this proposal tracks input from the reflector committee. Rarely, do we have the opportunity for partnership, collaboration, creativity, and productivity that we have now.  Our kids, our schools, our parks department, and our community deserve the very best. 

Observations:

  • A new school is needed to address overcrowding in Lake Highlands.
  • I understand the top choice coming out of the reflector committee is building a new elementary school in Lake Highlands. A new STEAM Academy would be a new elementary school in Lake Highlands.
  • The children and families of Lake Highlands deserve a truly great school such as a STEAM Academy to provide opportunities and be a destination school on par with the district and national award-winning Academy in the northern section of RISD.
  • The Dallas City Park Department would like to partner with RISD to create public parks and improved amenities at RISD schools within the City of Dallas.
  • The City of Dallas has funds allocated to update the existing community pool and construct a Family Aquatics Center at the Lake Highlands North Recreation Center across the street from the LHHS.
  • The current property under contract (White Rock Trail & Walnut Hill) as a site for new school construction is not a desired location and will cause numerous problems including traffic and congestion.

Proposal:

  • RISD partners with the City of Dallas Parks and Rec Department to re-locate and improve some of the athletic facilities on the east side of the LHHS campus (either the track, ball fields, or tennis courts or some combination of these). Some of those facilities could be relocated to the south side of Church Rd on the Lake Highlands North park property and/or to other existing Dallas Parks and Rec Department facilities in Lake Highlands, such as the Fair Oaks Tennis Center that I understand will have the tennis courts resurfaced this year. The east end parking areas can easily be made up by use of the west lot along White Rock Trail. 
  • RISD can use the land vacated to construct a 21st Century Campus that can initially house the STEAM Academy (K-6) or whatever building is determined to best address overcrowding.
  • A portion of the money saved by foregoing land acquisition could be used to partner with the City of Dallas and construct a year round natatorium at Lake Highlands North Rec Center to be used by RISD and LHHS and programmed for use by the community at large.

This proposal supports the interests of RISD, the Lake Highlands Community & the City of Dallas. 

Richardson ISD

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  • Provides for a new elementary school in Lake Highlands; one of the top choices from the reflector committee.
  • Addresses overcrowding in the most impacted attendance zone.
  • Provides opportunity for the creation of a destination school – state of the art STEAM Academy
  • Land is expensive and finding land in the best place for a new school is difficult. Partnering with the City allows the District to save money that would be spent on acquisition, demolition & abatement
  • Increases flexibility on the High School Campus to address long term needs
  • Reduces impact of changes to attendance boundaries
  • Provides LHHS and other RISD Students access to year round natatorium and better training opportunities to affirm the School of Champions
  • Create additional parks and allows access to Fair Oaks Tennis facility for tournaments and competitions
  • Improves Community relations by mitigating traffic issues and increases safe routes to schools

Lake Highlands Community

  • This is a multi-generational opportunity to enhance the new Family Aquatics Center with an indoor natatorium to serve RISD and LHHS as well as provide senior programming, swim meets & other community uses
  • Preserve the neighborhood school model
  • Locates the City’s second year round indoor pool at Lake Highlands North Recreation Center
  • Reduces the negative impact to the community by eliminating safety and traffic issues or other needs for road expansion at the White Rock Trail/ Walnut Hill location
  • The RISD and the City work together with the park and recreation amenities

City of Dallas 

  • Allows for the most used Recreation Center in the City to offer an indoor natatorium for its community and RISD students
  • Revitalize relationship with Richardson ISD
  • Increase park access to areas of Lake Highlands where no park access currently exists
  • Eliminates the zoning, traffic and potential road expansion or other issues of the White Rock Trail location
  • Supports additional benefits from a great area of the city with a higher performing school district

My goal is to provide a starting point for discussion around available options and to support the community discussion in any way that I can.  I believe it is worthwhile for the reflector committee and the public to consider the proposal above. I recognize that after thoughtful consideration it may be determined there are more suitable options. It is a rare occurrence for all the stars to align to have such a great opportunity for partnership that can address such pressing needs.

The City of Dallas is standing by, should you choose to call.  

Adam McGough, Dallas City Council, District 10

The reflector committee presents its conclusions to RISD trustees at the April 18 school board meeting. If you have an opinion, your elected officials need to hear from you before then. The bond election is May 7th.