Coppell Chronicle Vol. 3, No. 51
Trustees Inch Closer to Closure Decision • Our Dairy Queen's Reign is Officially Over • Irving Voters to Consider New City Hall • Flood District Inspires More Questions
I know it’s late. I know you’re weary. I know your plans don’t include me. But this edition starts off with a bit of a downer, and I didn’t want to ruin your Super Bowl party.
Trustees Inch Closer to Closure Decision
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that one of Coppell ISD’s elementary schools will be closed in a few years. If you care about this district, start wrapping your brain around that concept now.
Ironically enough, Trustee Leigh Walker broached the topic during the school board’s budget workshop on Monday. Less than a year ago, Walker wanted a potential closure to be removed from the trustees’ priorities list.
(See “Trustees Remain Open to Closing Schools“ in Vol. 3, No. 6)
On Monday, Chief Financial Officer Diana Sircar painted a dire picture. The district has been dipping into its fund balance to cover expenses, which is not sustainable. So Sircar presented a few budget scenarios that call for multimillion-dollar reductions in payroll. I’m not sure how you cut that much payroll without closing a campus.
Various trustees made allusions to “hard decisions” and “pain points” on Monday, but Walker was the only one who plainly talked about a closure.
“I’ve said this from the very beginning: If we’re going to close a school or eliminate a program, we don’t just say that the next week,” Walker said. “There has to be a very intentional lead-up to that.”
Trustee Manish Sethi countered that the lead-up has been going on for a few years.
“Last time, when we were talking about pushing these hard decisions, it was based on, ‘Let’s see what [the] Legislature does,’” Sethi said. “They did nothing, other than pass more underfunded or non-funded mandates.”
He later added: “We know how the cookie has crumbled — not in our favor — and there’s some hard decisions to be made.”
Sircar said the district’s December snapshot showed that 31 elementary classrooms had 16 or fewer students. (Coincidentally, there were 31 elementary classrooms with 22 or more students.) And she reminded the trustees that the total enrollment of the district’s 11 elementary schools represents 83 percent of the campuses’ combined capacity. By the 2028-2029 school year, that stat is projected to drop to 76 percent.
(See “Coppell ISD Student Body Expected to Shrink” in Vol. 3, No. 37)
“There are some pretty obvious pain points that we keep coming back to,” Walker said, “and I think one of those big ones is that we have more space in our northern elementaries than we have kids for.”
That space inspired one of the colorful metaphors Board President David Caviness used during Monday’s discussion:
On budget cuts — “We’ve been very diligent to not come at it with a hacksaw. We’ve used scalpels.”
On vacant elementary seats — “It’s a blinking neon sign when we look at the data.”
On the district’s financial future — “The house isn’t burning down, and there’s no big thunderstorms outside yet, but the clouds are rolling in, and we’ve got to be mindful of that.”
The district’s leaders are by no means happy about any of this. On the contrary, they’re hopping mad. Walker said the lack of financial support from the Legislature makes her “want to kick people.” Superintendent Brad Hunt said, “This, to me, is all a part of the plan to break down public education.” And Trustee Nichole Bentley encouraged voters to “raise some hell” until the next regularly scheduled legislative session in 2025.
“Be ready as a community to take action and protect the reasons why we moved here,” Bentley said, “and protect the things that we value and the things that we care about.”
Monday’s discussion was just that — a discussion. The board didn’t take any actions during the workshop, other than approving $1.5 million worth of bond funds for replacing playgrounds at all but one elementary school. (Canyon Ranch got left out because the school and its playground are so new.)
“I don’t want anybody in the community to think that we’ve landed on one scenario,” Hunt said in regards to the budget. “It’s still very fluid.”
Sethi’s response: “The only thing we’ve landed on is we need to have more deeper discussion.”
Our Dairy Queen’s Reign is Officially Over
Tips about breaking news are always welcome via firstname.lastname@example.org (or by responding to any emailed edition of the Chronicle). I received such a tip on Wednesday morning, when somebody told me they’d seen equipment being moved out of our shuttered Dairy Queen.