The almost-300 seat board room was filled to the brim at Monday night’s Lewisville ISD school board meeting. Several student organizations received recognition, and two dozen citizens spoke on behalf of Hedrick Elementary School, whose future is in doubt. Also the board formally called on the Texas legislature to repeal the proposed A-F school ranking system.
Controversy and worry over Hedrick Elementary School arose in September, when district officials recommended tearing both it and the connected middle school down but said they could potentially only rebuild the middle school. Rebuilding the elementary school was listed as $34.2 million out of almost $700 million in total costs of proposed priority 1 projects.
Sending students who would have gone to Hedrick to surrounding elementary schools was listed as an alternative to reconstructing the 43-year-old school. There are four other elementary schools within two and a half miles of Hedrick. Hedrick serves more than 600 students, about 300 of whom are English Language Learners.
Map shows Hedrick with blue marker, and surrounding elementary schools with red markers. Each marker has capacity and forecasted enrollment info.
Among those who spoke for the school was current Hedrick 5th grader Jade Jimenez.
“This school is like our second home,” she said. “How would you feel if the work you’ve had for years that you’re so passionate about, they took it away? That’s how we feel about Hedrick.”
Board president Trisha Sheffield said the Facilities Advisory Committee was essentially working with two proposals, one of which rebuilt the elementary school and one of which used the space to expand the attached Hedrick Middle School, which is also rebuilt in both plans.
Sheffield said it’s a question of space — the middle school can’t be updated to the current standard without taking the elementary school’s land.
“Their recommendation is to not rebuild the elementary school so that a middle school could be built to the same standard,” she said. “They won’t fit on that piece of land.”
Sheffield said the FAC has not yet made a formal recommendation and the board has not yet deliberated on the issue.
Of the citizens who spoke in favor of keeping the school, some, like Amelia Palmer, who has two children attending Hedrick, said her experience with the school has been too good for it to not be rebuilt.
“My children, over Christmas break, asked me when they could go back to school,” Palmer said. “They really love to be at Hedrick Elementary School, and I just am broken-hearted on the thought that children would miss out on this environment.”
Others, like parent of two current Hedrick middle-schoolers Stephen Johnson, were openly suspicious of the board’s decision-making process. Johnson said rebuilding the Elementary was the only proposal not approved by the FAC, and referred to the Nov. 17 FAC meeting at which superintendent Kevin Rogers and the architect on hand said both schools could be rebuilt on the existing land with minimal adjustments to the plans.
“This project should have been included with the 41 others that were voted upon. This is just a small percentage of the total cost of the future bond, whatever that happens to be. If you really want to build it, it can be done,” Johnson said. “So my question is, what is the underlying issue of why we do not want to rebuild Hedrick Elementary School? Why do we still not know which schools these kids are going to be bussed to and rezoned to if the school is not rebuilt?”
Board members are prohibited by law from speaking about anything not on the agenda, which the Hedrick issue wasn’t.
The bond recommendation will go to a public vote in May.
After the public addresses, the board took action to formally request that the Texas Legislature repeal the A-F school rating system, which board members say is not a meaningful accountability system and relies too heavily on the standardized STAAR tests, which LISD found to be improperly scored last year.
Board secretary Kristi Hassett spoke about the mathematical flaws in the A-F system, particularly the Texas Education Administration’s decision to weigh “passed,” “post-secondary” and “advanced” scores evenly.
“What this really and truly means is, if every single student in that school happens to pass the STAAR test, and they only pass it, they don’t go to post-secondary or advanced but they do pass it, and they meet the state standards that they have provided, the school can fail. The school can get an ‘F’ rating in domain 1 if every single student passes the test,” she said. “That’s bogus.”