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.”
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.
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.