Frequently Asked Questions Re: HS Thompson / JJ Rhoads Elementary Schools
Is Dallas ISD closing JJ Rhoads Elementary School in South Dallas?
No. The neighborhood is not losing a school, but gaining one. Dallas ISD is rebuilding HS Thompson Elementary as a new, expanded state-of-the-art school, just 1.2 miles away from Rhoads, to serve 675 students when it opens in 2021. This school will be large enough to accommodate all the students currently in JJ Rhoads. JJ Rhoads is remaining open and will continue to serve students in the South Dallas Community.
What changes will take place at Rhoads?
In addition to continuing to serve our K-5 students this coming school year, JJ Rhoads Elementary is expanding to become an all-day early learning center, and will receive some much-needed renovations. Next school year we will begin to roll out the early learning center at JJ Rhoads, and we’ll expand it once the K-5 kids move over to Thompson. The expanded early learning center at Rhoads will serve Pre-K3 and Pre-K4, with extended hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to allow families more flexibility for dropping off and picking up their children. Rhoads will offer music and art on two days a week as part of the extended after-school programming. Additional early learning offerings and family services may become available at Rhoads starting with the 2021-22 school year.
What about the childcare providers already in South Dallas? Will this plan hurt their businesses?
Our commitment is to ensure it does not. There are roughly 800 Pre-K early learners who are not being served in South Dallas, more than enough to fill all our partners’ sites and all our seats as well. Our Pre-K partners are involved and helping us plan to serve the students they can’t accommodate. We want to reach these children, many of whom are at the Pre-K3 level, to get them off to a good start. And we want to give our community partners all the support they need to keep providing the valuable service to the community that they offer. Our Pre-K partnerships are essential for everyone.
What are your plans for the new HS Thompson?
We’re excited to bring HS Thompson back! The new neighborhood school will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education and use research-based instruction that challenges students through learning experiences aimed at preparing them for success in the 21st century. The rebuilt Thompson will be a $23.5-million school with science classrooms, art, music and dance rooms, and a library with a maker space in addition to the core curriculum classrooms, gymnasium and cafetorium and two playground areas.
Was the community involved in your planning? What is their reaction?
Yes, extensively. This plan was developed through a series of meetings, at least 16 held with the community since this project began in October 2019. To capture as much community input as possible, meetings took place on different days of the week, weekends, during the day, at night, in churches, schools, and community centers. In addition, we took more than 30 community members, including several childcare business owners, on a tour of early learning centers and STEAM campuses in Dallas ISD, to explore some of the best models we have. We received lots of great feedback, and people have been very appreciative of the inclusion efforts.
Will you continue to include community members in the process?
Yes. Future conversations will include opportunities to expand the early learning options, perhaps bringing in some outside partners to provide services. We are also planning to use some of the space at Rhoads to bring in wraparound resources for adults, which could be in the form of job training, mental health and social services, etc. Lots of options are possible, but we want to get input from the community. We will be rescheduling the community meetings that have been paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to involve the community throughout the process.
Where can I get more information about the plans for HS Thompson and JJ Rhoads?
We have been maintaining a website (www.dallasisd.org/southdallas) in an effort to provide information to those not able to attend our meetings and in an effort to be more transparent. In addition to past presentations, you can also find letters there from district leadership reinforcing our commitment to the South Dallas community. Future information will be updated as it becomes available, so check back frequently.
Why am I hearing about a petition to keep Rhoads open?
JJ Rhoads will remain open and will transition to an early learning center. There are no plans to close the school. Everyone is invited to join the community meetings once they resume, to get the facts and be a part of the conversation.