Low scores, falling enrollment likely to close five Dallas schools

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DALLAS – Dallas ISD recommends its board to close five schools after falling enrollment at some campuses and low test scores at a couple others.

Trustees will debate the issue for the third and final time on Thursday night before voting on the staff recommendation in two weeks.

"Decisions like this are really tough,” said Stephanie Elizalde, Chief of School Leadership at DISD. "It doesn’t happen very often, and we work to make it not happen wherever possible."

Test scores have been too low for too long at C.F. Carr Elementary in West Dallas and Edward Titche Elementary in Pleasant Grove. Those schools will close if they don't improve by May. If not, the Texas Education Agency can take over those campuses and the entire district.

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Closing Carr and Titche is a pre-emptive move by DISD to retain control.

"We have so many changes that are occurring in our city and many of those are excellent for the entire community, but there are also those negative effects that happen to individual communities,” added Elizalde.

Progress is the problem for J.W. Ray Elementary and JFK Learning Center along the Ross Ave. corridor.

Gentrification has led to empty desks. Houses have been replaced by luxury apartments. That has meant fewer children in public schools.

If trustees approve it this month, DISD will move students from Ray and JFK to Cesar Chavez Elementary this fall.

"I've got Kennedy. That's at 360 kids. I've got Ray. That's at 200. I've got Chavez. That's at 400 in a building that holds over 1,000. This would allow us to bring more resources to the students being served at one location at Chavez," said Elizalde.

There's no clearer example of the changing demographics than Dallas ISD's old headquarters building on Ross Ave. A bulldozer spent Wednesday afternoon working inside the old boardroom. Developers are saving some of the building, but turning this property into high-end apartments where few families will likely ever live.

"We've got actually one of the best track records of getting our schools where they need to be. Despite that and because there are so many schools, there are some that have been lingering on this improvement required list," said Miguel Solis, Dallas ISD board member.

Ray Elementary and JFK Learning Center are in his district.

"Even if you do improve test scores in certain neighborhoods with certain schools, there's such a dramatic shift in urban planning and development that from a financial standpoint, it would be very difficult to keep these schools open regardless,” he added.

No teacher or staff member will lose their job if the closures happen, said Elizalde. Instead, those employees will move with the students.

The district plans to re-purpose the buildings from Ray Elementary and JFK – turning Ray into Ignite Middle School this fall. JFK would reopen in the fall of 2019 as a campus for specialized academics.