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Dupre Elementary May Soon Close, But Not Without A Fight

As enrollment drops at the historic elementary school, parents and community members say Dupre's possible closure is about more than numbers.

UPDATE: On Nov. 11, the Lubbock ISD School Board voted 6-1 to close Dupre Elementary School at the end of the 2021-2022 school year and changed attendance zoning in the Heart of Lubbock neighborhood for elementary-age kids to attend Brown Elementary School.

On a Monday evening earlier this month, the brightly-painted Dupre Elementary School cafeteria overflowed as Lubbock Independent School District Superintendent Kathy Rollo started an information meeting.

Parents and other community stakeholders were there to learn more about the future of the oldest school in Lubbock, which was constructed in 1927. Enrollment at Dupre has dropped by a third in the past five years. There are now 195 students attending the school that could hold over 330.

Because of that enrollment trend, Rollo said the district has a plan to repurpose the campus and send most current students to the nearby Brown Elementary. The LISD school board will vote on the proposal during its meeting at Central Office, 1628 19th St., on Thursday at 7 a.m. Citizens can sign up online to participate in public comments that morning.

Rollo explained to the increasingly frustrated crowd that this is about opportunity and data.

“I understand that it’s hard”

LISD has closed or consolidated over a dozen elementary schools in the past 20 years as populations shift in the city. Areas of growth in Northwest and South Lubbock are served by Frenship and Lubbock-Cooper ISDs, respectively.

“That is a factor that we, as a district, have to look at,” Rollo said in an interview with Texas Tech Public Media. “We do see some development starting to happen within Lubbock ISDs boundaries. But that’s more in the north and west parts of our district–not where Dupre is.”

Enrollment at Dupre has experienced a downward trend for years. Rollo said there is no magic enrollment number that triggers talks of closing or consolidating campuses. In this case, she said, the timing is because of opportunity.

“We have a campus that’s less than a mile and a half away, Brown Elementary, that has the capacity to hold more students,” Rollo said. “We are at a point where we feel like it's time, as a district, from both an efficiency standpoint and a quality of education standpoint, to consolidate those two schools into one.”

Brown is going through changes of its own. Starting next year, the campus will be a part of the science, technology, engineering and math program, Project Lead the Way. Rollo said the initiative will create new opportunities at Brown, which has struggled academically in recent years. 

If the school board approves, attendance zones would be redrawn to send current Dupre students to Brown. The students and their families also have the option to attend the newly-built Carmona-Harrison Elementary in North Lubbock. Per Lubbock ISDs existing policy, students could also transfer to another campus in the district. There are two other elementary schools within a few miles of Dupre. Rollo said transportation will be provided.

Because it is a historical building, Rollo said Dupre would be repurposed for other educational purposes.

The superintendent said she knows none of this comes easy for those who love Dupre.

“I understand that it’s hard,” Rollo said. “But I know we also have to look to the future and make decisions based on what’s going to be best for the district and our students, in particular, as we move forward.”

A parent’s perspective 

While the potential closure of Dupre may be about data and opportunities for the school district, it is more personal for Leia Arteaga. Her 7-year-old daughter Serenity is in the second grade at Dupre.

Serenity said she recently learned about vowels and she likes her art and music classes best. Her best friend is named Mallory. Last year, they were in different classes. Now, she is worried they might end up at different schools.

“Because last year I missed Mallory and we didn’t get to do the things we used to do,” Serenity said.

After Serenity ran off to play with her friends, Leia Arteaga shared her biggest concerns about Dupre possibly closing. One of them is the lack of transparency.

She said the news about the school caught her by surprise. Arteaga is the kind of parent who is really involved. She attended a recent meeting about academics and demographics at the school, along with reading to Serenity’s class during a recent volunteer opportunity.

She knew there were concerns about the campus. But she, along with other parents and staff, did not expect this. She wants more time.

“I want us to have three to five years to formulate a plan, where we can meet some sort of identifiable, acceptable standard that LISD would be satisfied with us continuing to remain open,” Arteaga said.

Arteaga has some of her own solutions to reverse the declining enrollment at Dupre. One is to expand the attendance zone for the school to include all of the Heart of Lubbock neighborhood. That would take the southern boundary from 30th Street to 34th Street. Arteaga also thinks the pre-kindergarten program could be expanded to allow younger kids.

The mom is searching for any way to keep the school open. She said going to school in-person is just becoming normal for her daughter and other kids her age whose first years of school were affected by the pandemic.

“My second-grader was in kindergarten when 2020 happened,” Arteaga said. “She lost half of her kindergarten year. That's the foundation of your education.

She is worried about her daughter getting lost in the shuffle at a larger campus that’s new for her. But, it’s not just about Serenity. Her younger son will start school soon, too. Arteaga said in the past, they’ve pointed to Dupre and told him, “That’s where you’ll go.”

She frequently gets teary-eyed as she talks about the role the school has played in her family’s life. In fact, when she and her husband bought their home in the Heart of Lubbock neighborhood in 2005, Arteaga said Dupre was one of the reasons why.

The Heart of Lubbock

Many in the Heart of Lubbock neighborhood feel a deep attachment to the brick building that sits on the northern edge of the community.

The Heart of Lubbock Neighborhood Association meets at a church right across the street from Dupre. The future of the school was on the most recent meeting agenda. The room was filled with neighbors, Dupre alumni and others who expressed concern about the elementary’s prospects.

She does not live in the neighborhood, but LISD School Board Trustee Lala Chavez was in attendance.

Chavez started her spiel by saying: “First and foremost, I’ve already come out and said I will not be part of closing a school.”

In solidarity, Chavez said she shares Arteaga’s complaints about how LISD has handled the potential closure of Dupre. She said she also felt blindsided by the news.

The community members in the room expressed anxiety about the long-term effects closing the school could have on the Heart of Lubbock neighborhood.

Every neighborhood has its problems, of course, but community members describe the Heart of Lubbock as a diverse section of town with a rich history. Multiple people at the neighborhood association meeting are former Dupre students who have lived in the neighborhood their whole lives. It’s that kind of community.

Chavez represents a section of North Lubbock where multiple elementary schools have closed or consolidated in recent years. She said she has seen what closing a school can do to a neighborhood.

“Well, there aren't going to be any families,” Chavez said. “It’s history where a school dies down, the families move out.”

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Have a news tip? Email Sarah Self-Walbrick at saselfwa@ttu.edu. Follow her reporting on Twitter @SarahFromTTUPM.