HPISD: Bonds and Buildings

Pick a campus, any campus. Whatever your choice, it could look drastically different several years down the road if Highland Park ISD voters pass a bond initiative this fall.

The $361.4 million proposal is by far the most expensive in the district’s 101-year history, and is the most ambitious effort yet to reconcile the preservation of HPISD traditions with the need to accommodate unprecedented enrollment growth.

When they cast ballots on Nov. 3, voters within the district’s boundaries will determine whether to add a fifth elementary school, and could authorize the tearing down and rebuilding of three of the four existing elementary campuses, all of which were built prior to 1950.

The plan also includes significant cosmetic changes to the Highland Park High School campus and its athletic facilities, and to the newest building in the district, which houses McCulloch Intermediate School and Highland Park Middle School.

So what will our neighborhood schools look like in 2020? And is it worth the cost? Here’s a breakdown of what could happen at each campus if the bond issue passes.


Highland Park Schools_3
(Photo: Tanner Garza)

The existing natatorium would be removed to create space for 28 additional classrooms to alleviate overcrowding.

The parking lot at the northwest corner of the building would be replaced with a multilevel addition that could house 30 classrooms for fine arts and other programs.

The Seay Tennis Center would be relocated behind the parking garage, across from the outdoor tennis courts.

A multi-sport facility would replace the existing Seay Tennis Center, which would house a new natatorium as well as meeting rooms, locker rooms, and athletic offices.

The district would plan to acquire land around the school for surface parking without building another garage.


Highland Park Schools_7ed
(Photo: Tanner Garza)

Both HPMS and McCulloch Intermediate School would add classrooms and flex spaces to their respective wings.

Parking would be moved to a 200-space underground garage beneath the existing athletic field to the south of the school.

Athletics, administrative, and performing arts spaces would get significant renovations, including enlarged locker rooms and relocated tennis courts.


(Photos: Tanner Garza)
(Photos: Tanner Garza)

Bradfield (5.5 acres), Hyer (6.2 acres), and University Park (4.6 acres) would each be razed and rebuilt in successive years on their current sites.

Each campus would consist of two above-ground levels and would be configured to accommodate 770 students.

An underground parking garage at each school would include 90 spaces and be designed to reduce queuing congestion.

The district says it intends to have the new schools incorporate historical elements of the original buildings and contain architecture that will complement the surrounding neighborhoods.

A slight addition on the north side would add a new music, art, and foreign-language classrooms and expand administration space.

Interior renovations would update the auditorium, create flex spaces, and enlarge classrooms.

The building would not be razed and replaced in part because of limited land area, but it would be smaller than the other four elementary schools with just 550 students.


It would be constructed on 4.6 acres the district plans to purchase from Northway Christian Church.

The school would serve as a rotating relief campus for displaced students from Bradfield, Hyer, and University Park while those campuses are being rebuilt.

It would accommodate 770 students and include 90 underground parking spaces, and would be populated with its own students after the other elementary schools are finished.


Here’s how the money is allocated in HPISD’s bond proposal that will be on the ballot in November.

7 thoughts on “HPISD: Bonds and Buildings

  • September 27, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Just build a junior high on the new land- 9&8th grade can feed into it. HPHS becomes a 10-12th campus. Them MIS can become a feeder middle school for 4&5th, HPMS 6&7th. Then Each elementary school can have a bigger neighborhood preschool program feeding into the K-3rd grade campuses. This relieves overcrowding on all campuses and a smaller more effective bond issue can be brought to keep our significantly historical buildings intact. Smaller renovations can be done on each of the campuses as to not tear down the last multimillion dollar bond issue that was completed less than 10 years ago. Please, Save our schools make smart growth decisions for HPISD.

    • September 29, 2015 at 8:40 pm

      Brilliant, disqus_2Y2. Perfectly brilliant.

      This Board persuaded us in 2008 to entrust them with $75+M of our hard-earned money by representing that its philosophy was to preserve the old school houses that have served our community for 80 or more years. On that basis, we gave them our money and took on the burden of that debt — debt that won’t be repaid until 2029.

      Yet as soon as the jackhammers went silent and all the renovations to the elementary schools were complete — when our students were finally enjoying the improvements in peace — the Board now tells us that we must DEMOLISH Bradfield, UP and Hyer.

      Three historical, gorgeous, recently renovated and expanded buildings, representing almost a century of our history, are to be bulldozed and reduced to rubble. And for what? To make room for 60 extra students at each of the demolished schools. And, the Board instructs us, we must do it right away! There’s no time for any meaningful questioning or reflection; this cannot wait.

      What poor planning, foresight, and stewardship of our money the Board’s Trustees exhibited in 2008, if they are now to be believed.

      As for the Board’s growth projections, recall that back in 2008 they said we’d have 7400 students by 2014, so we had to hurry to make room for them. Wrong. We had 7000 students in 2014. By my calculations, this gives us another four more years, as PASA, hired by the board to do its growth projections and help it sell the bond, forecasts 100 additional students per year. Also recall that PASA is a company hired solely by school boards to get bonds passed; it is not a neutral party in this shuttered, behind-closed-doors process.

      But perhaps most alarming is the response meted out when anyone dares to question the wisdom of this mammoth undertaking. We are beaten up and batted down by the Facilities Advisory Committee, which paints us as child-hating, ignorant Luddites.

      After administering its whack-a-mole beat-down on all dissenters, the FAC criticizes any objector who decides to remain anonymous, and then claims the nameless opposition it just bloodied has no credibility. The committee’s arrogance and gall, and its hyperbolic intolerance and lack of inclusiveness in this community endeavor are truly stunning. These dive-bomb hit-jobs should give us all great pause.

      Was the underwriting for the bond bid out, or was it handed to the Royal Bank of Canada, as it was only a few years ago? Was the architectural firm Stantec — which seems to love putting up schools that Frank Lloyd Wright might dream up on a drunken bender — chosen by closed bid? Where, pray tell, can the community go to understand why RBC & Stantec were the best choices the Board could find?

      Why weren’t the minutes from the FAC committee meetings — this committee made up of 21 people who collectively spent 75 hours on this bond project over a one-year period — published? Where are the comments people have submitted to the Board’s “online forum”? What is behind the Board’s apparent attempt to silence all opposition?

      Where are the renderings for these four new schools? Where will the new elementary lines be drawn? Ask the Board about construction and they’ll provide a fairly precise time-table for the stages and duration of the construction (though its time-tables don’t add up, by the way). But ask to see the plans and designs for the new schools, or where the new lines will be drawn, or which school will be demolished first, and they claim they have not yet decided. If the schools haven’t even been designed, how can the Board possibly begin to plausibly project dates for completion?

      Where will the money to pay the new teachers’ salaries and benefits come from, and the money to pay the other staff needed to run the new school by the church? Perhaps I missed it, but nothing in the promotional bond materials suggests this enormous bond covers these ongoing, and pricey expenses.

      Why the constant email barrages about the bond to the parents in the district? And why the rolling polling during nighttime FOOTBALL games at Highlander Stadium? If the Board felt this bond could stand on its own merits, it would have no reason to exert such undue pressure on parents to vote to support it.

      And of the first tranch of bonds, why will these bonds carry a 4.5% interest rate? That’s INSANE. Triple A paper doesn’t need anything close to 4.5% to be eagerly gobbled up by investors. Has no one on the Board any financial acumen?

      There are so many questions (and so few answers) that I could never in good conscience commit to paying higher property taxes (which are not capped, mind you) in perpetuity, simply because the Board says we are “growing” and we must “trust” them. They told us in 2008 these renovations would increase our capacity, modernize our schools, and carry us for “years to come.” Was the Board wrong then, or is it wrong now?

      After our property taxes are raised to kingdom come, so much for future giving to Mad for Plaid. So much for all those North Park gold coins for all of the teachers. So much for our children’s college funds.

      The trustees, however well intentioned they may be, have not acted above-board, it seems to me. They have not shown themselves to be trustworthy — or, if you prefer a gentler word, competent — in my opinion.

      Mr. Disqus is right: build a junior high school on the church property. It’s the wisest option yet advanced that addresses future growth, and it is by far the most fiscally prudent. Equally compelling, this junior-high-school plan eliminates the Board’s claim that three historic and perfectly good schools — schools that generations of our residents attended, schools beloved and cherished by all of us — must be demolished.

      • October 1, 2015 at 2:28 pm

        Thanks- I’m all for a bond issue and in fact my husband does public finance. I love a good bond issue but this budget plan seems so wasteful. Tear down 3 schools to add a handful of classrooms seems crazy. For weeks I’ve been thinking of a better way and finally came up with the junior high idea for the property. We only moved here 5 years ago. Thank you for explaining the last round. The payoff to 2026 is interesting, are there plans to roll that balance into this one? I knew they we’re still doing renovations on Bradfield cafe when I toured it prior to moving here. We moved here for the schools and convince to downtown. We love HPISD I just hope the bond becomes less wasteful.

  • September 30, 2015 at 9:42 am

    The Ballot language passed by the Board mysteriously doesn’t include ANY of the bond marketing promises other than to seriously increase the communities debt & the imposition of UNLIMITED taxation to pay for it. This is the actual ballot you will be voting on:


    If the Board of
    Trustees actually intends to spend the bond funds as their marketing
    materials suggest, why would they intentionally make the ballot
    proposal vague enough that they could spend it without doing ANYTHING
    listed in the bond marketing materials?


    • October 1, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      The language on the ballot for the HPISD 2015 bond election is similar to bond election ballots of other school districts. For example, the ballot language for the Duncanville ISD 2014 bond election reads: “The issuance of $102,545,000 of bonds by the Duncanville Independent School District for the acquisition, construction and equipment of school buildings in the district and levying the tax in payment thereof, including the costs of any credit agreements executed in connection with the bonds”

      In fact, the ballot language for the HPISD 2015 bond election is very similar to the language used in the HPISD 2008 bond election:

      “The issuance of $75,400,000 bonds for constructing, improving, renovating and equipping school buildings and acquiring real property and the levying of a tax in payment thereof.”

      Historical election results and ballot language is available online at http://www.dallascountyvotes.org/election-results-and-maps/election-results/historical-election-results/#ElectionResults

  • September 30, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Good luck selling your house during this bond imbroglio. Unless you’re in Armstrong, you won’t know which elementary school your child will ultimately be attending (since the Board refuses to reveal the re-drawn lines), or when, or for how long. And if you live on the fringes of the area served by Armstrong, it’s possible you could be re-drawn into another elementary school, too.

    Once the historic elementary school that now serves your children is destroyed (whenever that may be, since the Board refuses to say), your children will be forced to attend the cell block 8 school on Northwest Highway for an indeterminate amount of time.

    Once all 3 new schools are built and there are 5 elementary schools, will the elementary school that now serves your children be the one your children attend? There’s no way to know. The secretive Board sure as heck isn’t saying.

    If this bond passes, it will be a decade-long nightmare, to say the least. The realtors sure are catching on fast.


  • November 3, 2015 at 1:55 am

    Reading the “FAQ” on their web page, bond campaigners try to explain
    that they do NOT want to tear down and re-build Armstrong Elementary.
    They do propose to tear down Hyer, UP and Bradfield. I believe these 3
    schools can be renovated to the same level of service as Armstrong,
    without tearing them down. They would even tear down recent additions to these buildings, approved in previous bond elections – even a fairly new
    kitchen facility at Hyer. While certain renovation, updating and
    additions should have support, I can not agree to tearing down these
    facilities. Voters have expressed confidence in those plans when
    approving the previous bond elections. There are additional questions
    about bond campaigners’ comparison of renovation cost to a tear-down and rebuilding exercise.

    As the proposal is presented, I will be among those voting NO –
    – advising the School Board to ‘go back to the drawing board’ and come
    back to us with better planning. Maybe in the future we will see School
    Board candidates who will stand in favor of the kind of planning I have
    described here, that shows confidence in previous bond election results,
    and long standing District management.

    If the bonds are approved, and the public finally figures out what is going on with it – – there will be a turnover of school board members. It’s been a long time since we have seen a member’s name printed on a ballot. I have found bond supporters who can not tell us who is currently on the School Board.

    Those who find some points that are agreeable in the bond package should understand that the only opportunity to disagree with the others is with a “NO” vote on this package. This will send it back to the drawing board.

    Bond campaigners say:
    “Q: Why isn’t Armstrong being rebuilt as part of this bond election?
    A: Armstrong is the newest elementary campus and has the fewest number of classrooms that fall short of the square footage amount recommended by the State of Texas. The district’s architect has also advised that it would be difficult to build a more efficient floor plan on Armstrong’s site than what currently exists. In addition, unlike the other existing elementary schools, Armstrong’s outdoor spaces for PE and recess have not been encroached upon by additions to the school building. Armstrong can be renovated to meet its facility needs for approximately 23% of the cost of rebuilding it, which is significantly less than renovations would cost at other campuses. (On average, the cost of renovating Bradfield, Hyer and University Park is approximately 55% of the cost of rebuilding them.)”


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