Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 35
Our Belt Lines Are Tightening Up • Neighbors Go All Out For Halloween • CISD Trustees to Mull Amended Budget • ‘Battle’ to be Broadcast from CHS Arena
Our Belt Lines Are Tightening Up
There’s an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer gets lost in lower Manhattan and calls Jerry for help. Jerry asks if he knows what street he’s on, and Kramer is surprised to find himself at the corner of First and First.
“How can a street intersect with itself?” he says. “I must be at the nexus of the universe.”
I think of this gag whenever I find myself at the corner of East Belt Line and South Belt Line — also known as the intersection of Southwestern and Denton Tap, depending on which direction you’re heading. No matter what you call it, I plan to avoid that area for the next year or so, as it’s about to become the nexus of multiple construction projects.
As mentioned in an aside in last week’s Chronicle, the City of Coppell is going to reconstruct the stretch of South Belt Line between East Belt Line/Southwestern and Interstate 635. The project is expected to last until 2023, and there will be times when traffic is reduced to one lane in each direction. Yikes.
My wife and I are raising our sons on the west side of Coppell, but we frequently visit the east side of Dallas, where my mother raised me and my brothers. Taking South Belt Line to 635 is our typical escape route to my old ’hood (and vice versa for our return home), but to heck with that for the foreseeable future. My temporary detour will be to head west on Sandy Lake, then south on State Highway 121 to 635.
Meanwhile, DART has started construction of its Cypress Waters Station along East Belt Line, as well as a bridge over South Belt Line that will carry its new Silver Line trains to and from the new station. (Click here for more details on that project.) I noticed a lane closure on East Belt Line last week, and there’s already equipment in place where the bridge will cross South Belt Line.
Finally, as if the intersection of Belt Line and Belt Line didn’t already have enough going on, the Coppell Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday gave a green light to a mixed-use development called The Avenue at Denton Tap. This humdinger will feature nearly 30 condos on top of 8,500 square feet of commercial space. The three-story building will be on the vacant land north of Dairy Queen, with parking for customers along Denton Tap. A private parking lot for the condos’ residents will be west and northwest of the Dairy Queen. (It looks like our Queen is in check.)
This project was approved by the Coppell City Council nearly eight years ago. The property has since changed hands, and the new owner — Valley Ranch resident Gurava Madana — wants to move forward with the authorized plans. All the commission was asked to consider on Thursday was a replat of the property.
All I’m asking you to consider is whether you must drive on Belt Line.
Neighbors Go All Out for Halloween
The only intersection in Coppell that’s scarier than the corner of Belt Line and Belt Line is the corner of Willow Springs Drive and Willow Springs Court. That’s where Christa and Terry Ward have filled every square foot of their yards with elaborate Halloween decorations.
The centerpiece of their collection is a 12-foot skeleton with eyes that light up, but he has plenty of bony buddies in the Wards’ front and side yards. The skeletons on display cover a wide variety of shapes and species, including a life-size horse — or should I say “death-size”?
The Wards’ menagerie is not limited to skeletons. They also own tombstones, creepy dolls, and mannequins that will move and/or make noise when you approach them. (Consider yourself warned.) Their side yard features the stars of several horror movies, including Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. If you truly want to be creeped out, the side yard also includes a bed that spits up fake blood.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I was interviewing the Wards in the middle of all this gruesome gore, a woman walking by told them, “It’s beautiful.” I did not detect a hint of sarcasm.
Getting all of the Wards’ Halloween decorations loaded and unloaded requires nine trips between their storage unit and their house. Although the storage unit is here in Coppell, that work takes more than four hours.
Of course, their collection wasn’t always so elaborate. Christa showed me pictures from previous Halloweens, when their display was much simpler, and said with a laugh, “He liked it when it was this way.” (Terry seems to have embraced the “happy wife = happy life” philosophy; I’m right there with you, brother.)
“It was a much smaller scale,” Christa said, “and it just continued to kind of grow, and I wanted more, and I was seeing more and more items coming available.”
Luckily, Christa’s birthday is in September, which makes it the perfect timing for her to receive Halloween items as gifts. Everything in the Wards’ yard was either purchased as a birthday present or handmade as a birthday present. For example, Terry created a hearse by upcycling pieces of a patio table and wheelchairs.
As I was interviewing the Wards, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a “For Sale” sign in the yard across the street. Christa said that sign was out of date, because the sale closed just before they started erecting their display. Nice timing. I wonder if the buyers knew what they were in for.
The Wards are not the only Willow Springs residents with a passion for Halloween. Two doors down from the house that just sold is the home of Rachel and Wade Sigler. Several years ago, they put up a tent in their front yard over a picnic table featuring an assortment of what Rachel called “scary clowns.” (Is there any other kind?) Once the Wards started elaborately decorating their yard, “we all just ran with it from there,” Rachel said.
For the past few years, the Siglers have built a haunted maze in their front yard. Catty-corner from the Wards’ property is the home of Chris and Brooke Robinson, who turn their house into a pirate ship. And around the corner on Willow Springs Drive, you can see footage of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins projected onto Chris and Nicole Knoderer’s fence and house.
“I’m a big Halloween fan. I always have been,” Chris Knoderer said when asked what inspired him. “That, and I love to mess with people.”
Case in point: Last weekend, while wearing a leather costume adorned with metal rings and LED lights, Knoderer stood still behind one of the tombstones in his yard. A mother and child who were looking at his display didn’t notice him at all, even though he started making “wooooo” noises after a couple of minutes. Finally, Knoderer jumped out from behind the tombstone and gave them a fright they’ll be talking about for years.
If you’d prefer to stay in your vehicle while taking in Knoderer’s display, your experience can be augmented. He’s hooked up a pair of small FM transmitters that broadcast separate soundtracks for his two video projections. There are signs in the yard that tell you which frequencies to tune into on your stereo.
“I’ve been doing that for about three years, so it was way before COVID,” he said, “but I guess you could call it ‘COVID-friendly.’”
All of these displays are up now, but you’ll want to revisit them on Halloween, of course. That’s when the Siglers add animatronics to their haunted maze, and the Wards will have a DJ spinning tunes.
If your kids might be too scared by all these tricks, don’t forget the treats. The Wards give out full-size candy bars, and the Siglers have been buying candy since September to ensure they don’t run out.
“A lot of times, the kids don’t even care,” Rachel Sigler said. “They just want to go through the haunted house.”
Chris Knoderer said he also plans to have plenty of treats on hand.
“I go all out with it. Halloween is my thing,” he said. “The lady that I freaked out the other night? She’s like, ‘We ought to be donating candy to you guys.’”
CISD Trustees to Mull Amended Budget
Coppell ISD trustees conducted a workshop on Monday, and the first item on their agenda was a budget update from Chief Financial Officer Diana Sircar. I’m certainly no financial guru, but these are the numbers that jumped out at me.
The district got at least $300,000 in additional state funding by adding about 50 students. Sircar said this was due to two factors: the district’s open enrollment being expanded to all grades and the creation of the “I ♥ CISD” marketing campaign. She said there’s also been $100,000 in additional revenue thanks to advertising, largely on the fancy new scoreboards described in Coppell Chronicle No. 14.
Sircar then detailed several ways the district has reduced expenditures:
$3.7 million saved by reducing the number of full-time employees (net savings of $1.1 million after you account for 2 percent raises)
$1 million saved on a new custodial contract
$500,000 saved by reducing district-level budgets by 10 percent and campus budgets by 5 percent.
$500,000 saved by reducing the COVID-related budget
$240,000 saved by making bus routes more efficient
“All of these cuts are successes for year one and have put the district in a much better financial position,” she said.
The board’s regular monthly meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, when Sircar will ask the trustees to approve an amended budget, with a net adjustment of about $2.2 million. The majority of that amount was pinned on a piece of legislation known as House Bill 1525, which mandated a new calculation and cap on fast-growth allotment.
Sircar said the district’s total enrollment is 144 students lower than what was budgeted. She said there are 867 first-graders, but the senior class that graduated two years ago — right before those first-graders enrolled in kindergarten — included 929 students.
Superintendent Brad Hunt termed that difference of 62 students “pretty significant, for us. We have not had that for a while. We’ve been always classified as a fast-growth district.”
Hunt said demographer Bob Templeton is scheduled to provide an enrollment update at the board’s Nov. 8 workshop.
‘Battle’ to be Broadcast from CHS Arena
Sports TV networks that are on the air around the clock are always in need of content. To that end, on Nov. 12, Fox Sports 1 is going to broadcast a tripleheader of high school basketball games called The Battle.
This event will happen at the Coppell High School Arena. Like many other Coppell ISD parents, I learned of this via a message that Athletic Director Kit Pehl sent us on Wednesday afternoon. That message included a code for discounted tickets that expired on Friday morning. I’m surprised Pehl didn’t take my publication schedule into account when promoting this. (I hope you just detected a least a hint of sarcasm.)
Coppell High is one of the six schools involved, along with McKinney High and Wagner High, which is part of Converse ISD in Bexar County. The other three schools on the bill sound like they were invented just for this event.
Coppell’s opponent in Game 1 will be an outfit out of North Carolina called Vertical Academy. (Does their entire roster stand up throughout the game? I hope so.) Then McKinney and Wagner will take the court. The nightcap will be a contest between Missouri’s Link Academy and a brand-new school from California called Donda Academy.
Thanks to The Dallas Morning News, I learned that Donda Academy was founded by rapper Kanye West, who named it after his mother.
I may buy a non-discounted ticket to The Battle just out of curiosity.
Diverse Book Club: This new group for high school students is dedicated to reading and sharing diverse stories. The first meeting is scheduled from 5 to 6 p.m. on Friday at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
Scare on the Square: Businesses in Old Town will hand out treats to children of all ages between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Give for Grants: The Coppell ISD Education Foundation received 26 grant requests from 10 campuses. You have until Oct. 31 to pick your favorite and put a little money in the bucket.
Date Night in the Park: The Coppell Parks and Recreation Department will host an outdoor screening of The Princess Bride at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Andrew Brown Park East. This is intended to be an adults-only event, so I can’t say this loudly enough: LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME. If you have kids and would like to attend, please reread the previous sentence, then book a sitter for Nov. 6.
Indie Author Fair: The Cozby Library will host this event on Nov. 13. If you’re a published author who would like to have a table at the fair, click that link to fill out an application.