Lovejoy ISD eyeing growth
But some upset about high school moving into neighborhood
12:49 AM CDT on Monday, June 7, 2004
By MIKE JACKSON / The Dallas Morning News
The Lovejoy school district has yet to turn a shovel of dirt for its first high school, and already administrators are looking forward to expanding it.
Booming growth - about 15 percent the last two years - mimics spurts seen in neighboring Allen and McKinney school districts in recent years, said Lovejoy Superintendent Carol Ray.
"We're like the rest of Collin County," Ms. Ray said. "We're really growing. We'll need to expand the high school by fall 2012."
Administrators plan to open the 200,000-square-foot building in August 2006, which would finally allow the district to bring its middle school and high school students home. Lovejoy, which has no middle or high schools, has been sending its secondary students to Allen for 26 years. The district serves students in Fairview, Lucas and parts of Allen.
But not all residents are happy about the project.
A group of about 25 homeowners near the high school site in Lucas said it doesn't want the school so close by. They're worried about the potential for noise from a football stadium, traffic and depressed property values, said Wanda Beall of Lucas Concerned Homeowners Alliance.
"We bought in the country," said Ms. Beall, who has lived in Lucas for 10 years. "It was a huge investment for us. Now we're looking at stadium lights and noise and loss of property value."
Ms. Beall and her group also say the district secretly laid out their plans for the new school to avoid opposition.
"If we had the chance to speak up, then we would have had a better chance of stopping this thing," she said.
But district officials disputed the accusation. Plans for the school were publicly discussed before and after the two elections on consolidation and the bond package, said Lovejoy school board president Rich Hickman.
"We've been talking about that property that we own and what it would be used for for two years now," Mr. Hickman said. "We haven't been hiding it. It's been in the papers. It's been in the public eye.
"I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry," he said.
It's too late to shift plans, Mr. Hickman said. School officials and Lucas' planning and zoning board agreed on the last details of the plan last week, he said.
"If everything goes as expected, I hope we can turn some dirt by the end of the month," he said.
The new building would temporarily house 580 middle school students in sixth through eighth grades. It would also hold 200 high school freshmen. The middle schoolers will eventually move to a new school in 2008. And administrators will add a grade each year to the high school until it has students in grades nine through 12.
By the time both schools have students in all secondary grades, the district will have to begin plans for expansion, Ms. Ray said.
The high school, with a 1,000-student capacity, would reach 974 by 2009, according to a demographer's predictions. By 2012, the numbers will top 1,255.
The predictions also suggested that the district would probably have to build more space than expected for middle school students. Administrators planned a middle school for 800 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, Ms. Ray said. By 2013, the number is likely to hit 1,200.
"We'll either need two middle schools of 600 or one middle school for 1,175," Ms. Ray said. "We've got to look at this as a community and decide."
For now, officials said, the district will focus on plans to build the high school on a 70-acre site on FM2170, east of FM2551, in Lucas.
Lovejoy voters last year approved plans for the $31 million campus when it passed a $61 million bond package for new schools. The package will also fund construction of a middle school and an elementary school.
Before the bond election, voters in Allen and Lovejoy rejected the idea of consolidating the two districts. Lovejoy was compelled to build secondary schools.
"I feel good about where we are," Ms. Ray said. "We're excited."
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