Monday, May 23, 2016

What Does Lake Highlands Want?

Let me start by saying that I don't have a dog in this fight. Call me agnostic. Non-denominational. Unitarian Universalist. ☪☮⚥✡☥☯✝. Whatever. I don't have children in Lake Highlands schools. I don't own a house in Lake Highlands. Whatever is decided there to address overcrowding is unlikely to affect me. I'd go along with pretty much any solution that the community there can rally around. That's the nut of the problem. The community is not rallying around any solution. Anything that's proposed gets shot down by some faction or another. I'd hate to be the Richardson ISD administrators or school board. It's beginning to look like any solution that they adopt is going to piss off one group or another. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

You can't expand White Rock Elementary, the school with the most urgent overcrowding problem. That would make the school "too big."

You can't put portable classrooms there, in expectation that the overcrowding is just a temporary demographic bulge. Portables would still make WRE "too big" in the meantime and besides, portables are icky.

You can't build another K-6 school and draw off a significant number of WRE students. That would mean some WRE kids would have to go to another school. That's OK if it's somebody else's kids, but not if it's mine. Even if I don't have any kids in WRE, if I own a house there, my house price might take a hit if you redraw attendance boundaries.

You can't build a new school and split WRE into a K-2 school (the existing facility) and a new 3-6 school. That would mean all kids are uprooted and moved to a new school every two or three years.

Besides, you can't build a new school in the location where the RISD has already bought property. The property is too small, or it's sloped, or it would mean more traffic on White Rock Trail.

You can't build a school anywhere else, either. There isn't any suitable undeveloped land. You can't tear down apartments to create room for a school. That would victimize poor families. Some say it was the demolition of the apartments on Skillman Street that made WRE more attractive and created the overcrowding problem in the first place.

You can't build a 5th/6th grade center at the junior highs because putting the younger kids on the same campus with the older kids would be a bad influence on the younger kids. Also, it might mean taking 5th and 6th grade kids out of all elementary schools in Lake Highlands, even the schools that aren't overcrowded. That would harm the small schools.

If all this sounds negative, it's because much of the discussion has been negative. Whether it's meant that way or not, the behavior has reminded me of the #NeverTrump movement or the "Bernie or Bust" movement. Blame the process. And if I can't get my way, to hell with it all.

Like I said at the top, I can live with any of these solutions (well, not Trump, but that's not the issue). I already have lived with many. My kids went to an overcrowded elementary school with portables in the back. Eventually, the demographics of the neighborhood changed and the overcrowding went away. So did the portables. My kids lived through a grade reassignment, when the 9th graders moved from the junior highs to the high schools. My kids lived with school expansion. There's a hallway at Berkner High School named Senior Way in honor of the graduating class that had to put up with construction during much of their high school lives. My kids survived all this with no noticeable academic or emotional scars. The Richardson ISD itself survived and even thrived. In each instance, success depended on community spirit, not particular configurations of bricks and mortar. The same will be true in Lake Highlands...if we can keep from tearing the community apart in the meantime.