New Dallas School Honors Civil Rights Leader John Lewis

An $ 80 million new Dallas school will honor civil rights leader John Lewis and potentially include a community center to serve residents of east Oak Cliff.

Dallas ISD will build the school on the existing OW Holmes Humanities / Communications Academy site, administrator Maxie Johnson said at a celebratory press conference outside the aging college on Tuesday.

“We are fighting for fairness here in the southern part of Dallas, and today – with the help of our superintendent and our administration – we have achieved another goal,” Johnson said.

Holmes’ current class – which has around 700 students in Grades 6-8 – will not enjoy the benefits of the new campus, which will be renamed John Lewis Social Justice Academy at OW Holmes. The district will begin collecting community feedback for the multi-year construction process, with the school’s earliest opening date being around 2024.

Johnson won his trustee seat on the ISD Dallas Board of Trustees in part because of his advocacy for better facilities at South Oak Cliff High School, protesting and lobbying the district to tackles the degrading conditions of this campus.

During his tenure on the board, he insisted that DISD officials show their commitment to fairness by placing new campuses in South Dallas, including in his district of trustees. Ahead of his election in 2019, Johnson lobbied for SOC to be given a new campus. He then wrestled with the district administration over the quality and thoroughness of the school’s renovation after it became clear that the high school would not be receiving a new building.

A new school at the OW Holmes site is another example of how the passage of the district’s record $ 3.47 billion bond in 2020 gives DISD flexibility when it comes to managing aging campuses in very poor neighborhoods.

In recent years, DISD has started to take into account the economic and social health of a community, as well as the condition of a school building, to determine which schools get help first.

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said at the event celebrating Holmes’ plans on Tuesday. “We’re going to have a great school here, and it will pay homage to a handsome man who pioneered social justice in America.”

OW Holmes, whose student body is 98% economically disadvantaged, was not initially targeted as one of the 14 replacement schools named when the link was thrown at voters. Instead, nearby Pease Elementary was to receive a new campus, while Holmes would be significantly renovated.

The district, however, announced earlier this year that the Pease attendance area will be consolidated into WW Bushman Elementary. The combined campus will be renamed in honor of Dallas businessman and philanthropist Albert Black.

The Albert Black STEAM Academy will receive $ 31 million in renovations, and the old Pease campus will be converted into a preschool center.

Hinojosa said the district’s current management of construction costs and its burgeoning tax base has left DISD with “a few dollars left.”

While evaluating the extensive reconstruction, Hinojosa said district officials determined they couldn’t “do a SOC on this one.”

“It has to be completely rebuilt,” he said.

While Johnson said the new campus will also serve as Roosevelt High School’s feeding ground for the district’s new concept of a resource center for students and families – which uses the campus as a community hub for other resources – Hinojosa and Chief of Staff Pam Lear said it has not been finalized.

The ad was filled with a performance by the school drums and a symbolic protest march in front of the school.

Dallas City Council member Casey Thomas called the school “the start of change in 75216”.

“When we think of Oak Cliff, we have to think of the first order,” Thomas said. “We have to think about quality. We must bring back the history, bring back the pride that so many people who grew up in Oak Cliff [have]. “

The DMN Education Lab deepens coverage and conversation on pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network , Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of Education Lab journalism.

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