High School Principal: We Need More Land

Highland Park High School principal Walter Kelly navigates a crowd after the Lady Scots basketball team pulled off a buzzer-beating win in the 2012 playoffs. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

Highland Park High School principal Walter Kelly navigates a crowd after a buzzer-beating win in the 2012 girls basketball playoffs. These days, Kelly is dealing with much bigger crowds. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

If you own land near Highland Park High School, Walter Kelly would love to take it off your hands.

Kelly, the HPHS principal, and Johnny Ringo, the Highland Park ISD athletic director, talked to the Board of Trustees last night about the problems they face at the high school due to the growing student population. For example, to fully satisfy the requests they have for parking from current students and faculty, they’d need 300 additional spaces right now. And that doesn’t take into account the additional growth that is expected.

Kelly and Ringo presented a list of options and a list of requests to the trustees, and both lists included buying land near the high school.

“It’s the most ideal [option] from my standpoint,” Kelly said. “But it’s the least ideal from a political standpoint, and probably from a financial one.”

Options

1. Move the natatorium/aquatic center off-site.
2. Move Highlander Stadium off-site.
3. Move a combination baseball, softball, and/or tennis facility off-site.
4. Rebuild Highlander Stadium immediately north of its current location and move Scotland Yard, the softball field, and possibly tennis facilities.
5. Reconfigure HPHS to not include ninth grade.
6. Purchase additional land adjacent to HPHS.

Requests

1. Keep current 9th-12th-grade HPHS configuration.
2. Purchase land adjacent to HPHS.
3. Build the HPHS campus to fit size and instructional needs.
4. Build appropriate parking.
5. Build appropriate athletic facilities.
6. Avoid relocation of any athletic facility, except for the aquatic center. If necessary, prioritize by student-athlete and coach impact.

The presentation included pros and cons of each option, and Kelly said the final con — “Land purchase and acquisition is a challenge” — is an understatement, of course. But, he added, “That’s the way that we don’t compromise what we have to do.”

Of the other options, the most favorable was moving the natatorium, for several reasons:

1. Kelly said the space the natatorium occupies could be converted into 26 much-needed classrooms.
2. The swimming and diving program involves fewer than 60 athletes, minimizing the number of students who would have to be transported off-site for practice during the school day. For comparison’s sake, the football program involved 585 students last season, and 631 are expected to participate next fall.
3. The swimming and diving program has only two coaches. If the district moves any athletic facility away from the high school, the involved coaches would not be available to teach in the periods preceding or following practice time, because of travel considerations. Taking two swim coaches out of the scheduling equation would be easier than removing, say, 20 football coaches.

The options presented by Ringo and Kelly are not mutually exclusive. If the district also rebuilt Highlander Stadium with a track — a feature that the current version lacks — students in the track-and-field program (181 this year) wouldn’t have to travel to Germany Park to practice. And the space currently occupied by Highlander could be devoted to an expansion of the high school.

Of course, a new Highlander Stadium would displace Scotland Yard, which brings us back to the question of land acquisition.

Trustee Jim Hitzelberger asked Kelly to define “adjacent” — would land four or five blocks away be adequate? Kelly said he’d love it if the district could acquire land “across the street.”

“If it’s not within eyesight, it’s a challenge,” he said.

Forget about across the street — what about outside the district? Citing University Park’s Peek Service Center, which is not within the University Park city limits, Superintendent Dawson Orr said the district’s lawyers are exploring whether a team’s practices, which are part of the school day, could be held on land that is part of Dallas ISD. (Kelly, Ringo, and the trustees seemed to think that hosting competitions on land outside HPISD wouldn’t be a problem.)

The remaining option that was not all about athletics was moving the ninth-graders to another campus. Kelly recommended that the trustees discard this idea, citing the number of freshmen who take courses above their grade level. If they were somewhere other than the high school, they’d either have to commute back to HPHS for certain classes, or the district would have to duplicate those courses (and teachers) at the ninth-grade campus, at great cost.

Last night’s workshop was the last in a series that featured input from administrators across the district. The Board of Trustees has scheduled a three-hour workshop for Monday, when they will discuss options based on all that input. It’s set to begin at 5 p.m. in the Administration Building.

By Dan Koller Feb. 11, 2014 | 4:14 pm | 18 Comments | Comments RSS
18 comments to "High School Principal: We Need More Land"
  1. Sports Fan @ February 12, 2014 at 10:34 am
    The softball field has got to be the least utilized sports space/facility on the campus. How many players and coaches take advantage of that square footage throughout the year?

    There is zero chance that HP will build a pool. Its off to Loos (DISD) for the swim teams.

  2. anon @ February 12, 2014 at 10:56 am
    The softball field is used by other sports teams during the fall, including the football team, so it actually provides more practice space to the athletic program as a whole.

  3. Avid Reader @ February 12, 2014 at 11:10 am
    @Sports Fan, Apparently enough players at HP and enough revenue from outside leagues to allow them to break all of their promises to the surrounding residents regarding the light installation. Though, now that this has finally come out in public conversation I’d say those people should be more worried about the take-over of their homes in the near future.

  4. Tk @ February 12, 2014 at 11:48 am
    Let the swimmers go to the soon to be built YMCA on Preston. Turn the Seay Tennis Center into the new band hall, which needs updating and is reported to be too small. Expand the cafeteria serving area into the hall and current band hall, so juniors don’t have to eat off-campus.
    The current pool would provide room for 26 classrooms? That’s huge. So build it out with classrooms,offices, weight room,dance hall- whatever is needed. What’s with the dirt overflow parking behind the garage? If HPISD owns that why not expand the parking garage to that space? Done deal.

  5. HPGRAD @ February 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm
    Why cant HP we use SMU facilities? such as their 2 pools and stadium? All SMU FB games are on Saturdays so there’s no game time conflict .Building parking and classrooms in the stadium space would solve space issue effectively and not bother the softball neighbors. FB, soccer and band can practice in multi sport facility.

  6. 1st anon @ February 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm
    “to fully satisfy the requests they have for parking from current students and faculty, they’d need 300 additional spaces right now.”

    How about starting with fewer cars?

  7. Dan Koller @ February 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm
    @1st anon: At a previous board meeting, Jim Hitzelberger said something like, “Maybe we don’t need more parking spaces; maybe we need more bike racks.”

  8. HPGRAD @ February 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm
    @TK @1st Anon, think yall are both spot on, although biking is really kind of dangerous around the HS, kids and parents drive terribly. We have 5 driving HS kids in our block and block over, they all drive separately! maybe carpooling should be mandatory. Some action needs to be taken quickly, no need to delay.PS the HS cafeteria food is horrible. The mid school really has good selection of edible food and fresh salad bar everyday. Why cant they do the same for HS?

  9. Mass Transit @ February 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm
    Maybe the school district should purchase those large Mercedes Transport Vehicles (upscale buses) and make riding the bus mandatory. The buses could also be used to transport the sports and academic teams to off-site competitions. (And, no one would be embarrased to have to ride in a yellow submarine.) Or, HP could refer to the “buses” as “shuttles” like at UT.

    SMU has one six-lane indoor pool that is no larger than the HP pool. The SMU outdoor pool is not really an option in the “wintery mix” season.

    The SMU football neighbors don’t like the parking situation either.

  10. 1st anon @ February 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm
    How about only seniors can park at the school? Everyone else can take a school bus, carpool, walk or ride a bike. It’d take roughly 10 buses. Too good for a school bus? Tough. Walk/bike.

  11. 1st anon @ February 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm
    @Mass Transit: “Mercedes Transport Vehicles”. Are you kidding me? Stop coddling. Standard yellow buses. Too embarrassed? Then walk.

  12. Avid Reader @ February 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm
    Faculty and then Seniors should be given the spots in the garage and surrounding school, others drive/park at your own pleasure. Can’t find a spot? Figure it out. No one is embarrassed to ride a yellow bus, that’s ridiculous. I took the DART to elementary school, worked great.

  13. Parkie @ February 12, 2014 at 7:10 pm
    HPHS could have an off-site parking lot running a shuttle continuouly from 6 am to 7 pm.
    My daughter, like hundreds of others, played a sport. She had to carry her athletic equipment, arrived at 7 (in the dark for much of the year), and sometimes stayed until 7 pm. Besides athletics, most students attend tutorials before and after school. The cafeteria cannot accomodate all students who now eat lunch off campus. The streets around school are not safe for pedestrians or bicycles. The intersection of Douglas and Lovers is a nightmare.

  14. Up @ February 12, 2014 at 10:50 pm
    I was recently on a college tour in Bozeman Montana. Don’t know population but probably
    Around 25,000.
    The students there seem to all have bikes.
    Very few cars. It was a beautiful day snowing and 20 degrees. They were riding bikes.
    Just an observation.
    Oh, how much would 500 bikes cost?

  15. Mass Transit @ February 13, 2014 at 7:25 am
    I am aware of one student who lives at the corner of Hyer and Westchester(directly across from Scotland Yard) who drives their Range Rover 2 blocks south to park in the garage. Good luck with a yellow bus.

  16. Another Mother @ February 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    I love the idea of only allowing seniors and faculty to park in the garage. The others can carpool or be dropped off or whatever.

  17. jb @ February 13, 2014 at 8:16 pm
    The indoor football facility, er, ahem, the “Multi-Purpose Activities Center”, sits right next door to the High School classroom and was the last unused real estate on the campus.

    Why oh why must the HPISD now go out and threaten to acquire, likely through adverse possession, neighboring residences so that an indoor football facility may continue to sit smack dab in the middle of the high school campus?

  18. Tk @ February 15, 2014 at 2:03 pm
    @jb: fyi Boys soccer, jv cross country and marching band use stadium and indoor facility before school and first period.
    Three girls soccer teams and three football squads use the stadium and indoor facilities at 8th period and after school til around 6pm.That’s around 500 students using those facilities maybe more. Baseball and varsity cross country, oh and after hours lacrosse.

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