Dallas ISD Trustees To Take Up More COVID-19 Planning, Set Tax Rate

More planning for pandemic-era instruction will take up much of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees’ evening Thursday, but members will also vote on some of the initial steps to create a career institute at the former Walnut Hill Elementary School building.

As of late, public comment has taken up a large portion of the meetings, and Thursday night will likely not be any different. In addition, it is expected that student athletes will be protesting outside the meeting starting at 5 p.m.

The students are hoping to persuade district superintendent Michael Hinojosa to change his stance on extracurricular activities and athletic practices. 

Last week, Hinojosa postponed in-person athletic practices and other extracurriculars, largely, he said, based on the advice of a panel of experts assembled by Dallas County tasked with advising districts on best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inside the Ada L. Williams Governance Room at the Turney W. Leonard Governance and Training Center on Samuell Boulevard, however, trustees will vote on a variety of COVID-19 related items.

Some – such as the district’s plan for asynchronous distance learning, a move to provide a hybrid of distance and on-campus learning for high school students, and a cooperative agreement with Fort Worth ISD to combine forces for Spanish instruction – are on the consent agenda and will not be discussed.

Six items, however, were pulled from the consent agenda for further discussion, including a plan to set the district’s maintenance and operations tax rate at $1.05 and the debt service tax rate at 24 cents, for a total tax rate of $1.296735.

Trustees will also discuss hiring Turner and Source in a joint venture as the Construction Manager at Risk for pre-construction services for the Walnut Hill Career Institute renovation. The contract won’t exceed $25,000, district officials said.

The total renovation will have a $49 million price tag, but the initial pre-construction contract is to ready the building – which was heavily damaged by the October EF3 tornado – for renovation. A second phase will include the renovation of the existing 50,000 square foot building and constructing a new 102,000 square foot addition.

“This agreement is only for the preconstruction portion of the contract in the amount of $25,000,” Dwayne Thompson, Dallas ISD Chief Financial Officer explained in board documents. “The total construction portion of the project is estimated to be $49 million. The selection process was a 2-step process managed by procurement.”

Trustees will also discuss:

  • A series of expenditures related to getting schools ready for on-campus instruction, including plexiglass dividers, hand sanitizer supplies, and PPE.
  • Approving a lengthy list of vendors that will assist the district in providing online learning.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, 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. You can reach her at [email protected].

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