Jan. 28, 2015

Board decides to focus on November bond issue

By Leslie Melson 
HPISD Board President

Dear HPISD Parents and Staff,


This is a historic time for HPISD as we map out the future needs for our students and our schools.


We are considering building a new elementary school for the first time since 1949. We are also dealing with steady enrollment growth that is stretching the limits of our existing buildings. Parking continues to be a major issue not only for our schools, but across our community. And we are still looking for a new home for our swimmers to practice and compete.


As we sort through these complex issues one at a time, we realize that time is drawing short. That's why I would like to let you know that the School Board has reached a consensus not to call a bond election until at least November 2015. This time frame will allow us to take a comprehensive look at each of the key issues, rather than pushing for a May 2015 bond with some questions unanswered.


An important part of the research and conversations around our facilities has been conducted by the members of our Facilities Advisory Committee. They have devoted considerable time and intellectual energy to studying the future needs of our district. You can find their reports and recommendations on our Enrollment Growth page. On behalf of the board, I want to express our sincere gratitude for their work and their commitment to this school district and community:


Highland Park ISD 2014-2015 Facilities Advisory Committee

  • Maryjane Bonfield
  • Syd Carter
  • Jenifer Cody
  • Jerry Grable
  • Houston Hunt
  • Mark Jaudes
  • Blythe Koch
  • Gail Madden
  • Polly McKeithen
  • Anne McPherson
  • Mary Meier
  • Gage Prichard
  • Stewart Rogers
  • Mario Santander
  • Brad Schwall
  • Michael Selby
  • Doug Thompson
  • Katrina Tilley
  • Randy Touchstone
  • Lee Wagner
  • Caroline Williams
  • Bobby Womble


The committee, which is made up of community members representing a cross section of HPISD's citizens, divided into subcommittees to study elementary, intermediate/middle school and high school needs in depth. They presented their findings to the board in January, and we thank them for their extremely thoughtful and thorough research.


I also want to thank Kelly Walker, School Board Facilities Committee Chair, who has tirelessly focused on the study of our school facilities for several years.


The next step for the board is an in-depth analysis of the research, coupled with data from our demographers and architect. The board is taking a careful look at every option available to us. Some of the top issues we will continue to explore include: 


HPHS natatorium: The removal of the natatorium from its current location in the high school campus is still a real possibility, although relocating it to Curtis Park is no longer an option. If the natatorium, which is approximately 50 years old, were to be removed, it would allow for the construction of approximately 24 additional classrooms. It would also give us the option of expanding some of the main hallways in the school, which become very crowded during passing periods. 


We are continuing to search for a new natatorium site, both on district property and

elsewhere. One possible location is the corner of Douglas and Grassmere where the Seay Tennis Center is now. If that site were used for a natatorium, we would consider building a new indoor tennis center on the lot across from the outdoor tennis courts. We are also in talks with Southern Methodist University and the City of University Park regarding possible partnerships and natatorium locations. 


New elementary school: To relieve the overcrowding in our elementary campuses, we are aggressively pursuing the idea of building a new elementary school. The district has been working with Northway Christian Church to purchase 4.6 acres of land on its site, which would be financed through the bond package. Buying the land from the church would provide the district with a unique opportunity, as finding suitable acreage is difficult within the landlocked Park Cities. 


Parking: One of HPISD's greatest strengths is our parental involvement and commitment to volunteering in our schools and attending extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, we just don't have enough parking to accommodate all of our staff, students, parents and visitors. One of the key issues the board will study is adding parking at each of our campuses. Underground parking is an option that we are studying. 


Existing campuses: The trustees are committed to providing exceptional schools with top-notch learning spaces for all of our students. We are weighing all of our options and considering the best approach to alleviating the overcrowding issues that many of our classrooms at every campus currently face. 


The School Board is grateful for every email, phone call and conversation we have had with our community members regarding our facility needs. Each of you brings a unique voice and perspective to our considerations, but one thought is prevalent: our schools are the heart of the community. From a sea of blue and gold at a Friday night game at Highlander Stadium, to a packed Open House campus night, or an exuberant crowd at our recent Centennial Celebration, it's clear that the passion for our schools is as strong as ever.


We will keep you up to date as we continue to strategically and thoughtfully plan for the future.