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Dallas ISD trustee says new plans for Roberts Elementary spare

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By NANCY VISSER and TAWNELL D. HOBBS / The Dallas Morning News

DISD Trustee Bernadette Nutall said Friday that the school district has revised plans to rebuild O.M. Roberts Elementary School and will spare a neighborhood business and possibly some homes targeted for an expanded campus.

"We're in the business of people, and we've got to care about the people we serve," Nutall said.

The Dallas school district wanted land from Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse and a couple of dozen homes to erect a new school building on a larger campus in Jubilee Park. It planned to tear down the 101-year-old school, which could not meet the needs of students and faculty despite recent upgrades.

But residents repeatedly questioned why the district did not select other sites that might not have required the forced sale of people's homes.

At least seven homeowners held out – along with the greenhouse – and refused to accept the school district's offers to buy their properties. They said the amounts offered were not enough to pay for comparable homes in neighborhoods where they would feel comfortable.

Vickery owner Pat Berry said he would have had to close his business, which has long employed Jubilee Park residents. Vickery customers from throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area rallied behind him.

For months, the homeowners and Berry's customers have been speaking out at government meetings and demonstrating outside the DISD Administration Building. They feared that the school district would take them to court to seize their property.

Nutall, who could speak only briefly Friday, said the new plan is for the district to use the current O.M. Roberts property. Berry said Nutall told him earlier that students would be sent to other schools during construction of the new building.

Nutall said the district would retain ownership of the properties it already purchased from other owners in the neighborhood.

It was unclear Friday whether all the holdout homes were spared. DISD offices were closed Friday, and officials did not provide additional details.

Shawn Busari has been fighting for the home her late mother purchased decades ago in the little neighborhood tucked between Interstate 30 and Fair Park. Her disabled brother lives in the family house, and if they were forced to move, he would face the prospect of living in a nursing home.

"We were the super-underdogs, and to think that we could have victory in the future is awesome," said Busari, who is not certain whether her family's home will be among those spared.

Busari and fellow Jubilee Park resident Norma Hernandez organized the residents in their stand against DISD. Hernandez fought to save the home of her elderly parents. On Friday, she said it remained unclear how many, if any, of the homes would be saved, and she resolved to continue their fight.

"The residents have made it clear to DISD that our land is not for sale, but DISD has not listened and continues to ignore our requests," Hernandez said.

"Our neighborhood is like family, and you don't divide family," she said. "We are proud and strong and want to preserve our community. … We press forward with hopes that our wishes will be honored."

Berry, whose attorney met with representatives for DISD on Friday, said he was elated. "I feel like we're very fortunate to have this happen and work out this way," he said.

nvisser@dallasnews.com;

thobbs@dallasnews.com

 

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