With Cary Closure, Dallas ISD Makes Plans for Middle Schoolers

After the October tornado struck, Dallas ISD found homes for Walnut Hill Elementary and Thomas Jefferson High School in mothballed buildings.

But it was not the same for Cary Middle School, later deemed a total loss.

The district divided those students between Franklin Middle School and Medrano Middle School as a temporary fix.

But even in the earliest days after the tornado, officials knew that Franklin and Hillcrest High couldn’t absorb a continuous flow of additional students.

In January, the board approved about $132 million to renovate Jefferson and build a brand new pre-k through eighth-grade campus that would replace both Walnut Hill Elementary and Cary Middle School. Both projects are due to be completed in time for the 2022 school year.

At February’s board briefing, Dallas ISD Chief of School Leadership Stephanie Elizalde explained to trustees that the district had come up with a more workable middle school solution moving forward until the new Walnut Hill school is ready.

“Now that we have made a decision with the rebuilding of a K-8 school, I need to redo the attendance boundaries identifying all the students previously zoned to Cary to be zoned to Medrano,” Elizalde explained. “Medrano will be a seventh and eighth-grade campus only to accommodate all the students.”

So what happens to the sixth graders?

“The elementary campuses in that feeder will become PreK-6 campuses,” she said.

Under the new attendance boundary, Cary Middle School’s boundaries are absorbed into Medrano Middle School’s boundaries. Cary students who began attending Franklin Middle School after the tornado have the option of staying at Franklin, Elizalde said.

“If they want to remain there, and go to Hillcrest, that is allowable,” she said, adding that they will have the option of attending high school at Hillcrest, or going to the repaired Thomas Jefferson when it is complete.

Starting in 2020, Burnet, Cigarroa, Foster, May, and Saldivar elementary schools will include sixth grade. K.B. Polk and Walnut Hill will become pre-K through eighth-grade campuses by 2022, when the new Walnut Hill school opens, with Polk focusing on fine arts, and Walnut Hill focusing on international languages.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, former Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy.

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