March against EPISD closing Beall Elementary

Education

After EPISD’s vote to close Beall Elementary at last Tuesday’s board meeting, a group of parents gathered in front of Beall on Wednesday afternoon to march against the closure. 

The group, called Familias Unidas del Chamizal, said they have an issue with where Beall students are supposed to attend school next year, Douglass Elementary. 

“We want to make sure parents know what is behind Douglass [Elementary] and where the district is sending our kids,” said Hilda Villegas whose children attend Beall. “To a certain degree our voices were suppressed and we weren’t heard as a community.” 

Familias Unidas del Chamizal said they commissioned a study of the area with UTEP and found there were traces of lead and copper. As soon as the group arrived near to the railyard and recycling facility on Eucalyptus behind Douglass, they put on face masks. 

EPISD sent us the following statement on the march: 

“The District had more than a dozen staff and community meetings to discuss rightsizing in the weeks leading to the action by the Board. The meetings were well attended and provided parents with all relevant information regarding potential school closures.

EPISD set up a weeks-long campaign through the Let’s Talk portal to allow parents and community members to provide input and concerns about the rightsizing proposal. The District received hundreds of comments and questions, which were answered.

News media in English and Spanish covered the rightsizing efforts by the District in a substantial manner. Dozens of news stories were broadcasted or printed, and then posted online for public consumption. The number of social media posts regarding the rightsizing of EPISD also numbered in the hundreds.

EPISD officials, including administration and trustees, have met with community leaders in the Chamizal neighborhood to hear their concerns and address their issues.  

Claims that Douglass is an environmental risk for the children of the neighborhood are unfounded, too. An independent study done by UTEP researchers found all District schools in the area meet state and federal environmental guidelines

Additionally, the study found no presence of copper or hard metals in any of the schools in the area.

The study did find non-hazardous amounts of lead in one spot at Douglass, but the amount was deemed to be of no concern to the state or the federal government.

In a proactive move, the District chose to remove the traces of lead and replace it with new soil, eliminating any trace of lead on campus.

The results of the study have been share with the neighborhood, including leaders of the Chamizal area.

Researchers from UTEP also have expressed concern about the incorrect use of their data by neighborhood leaders in their efforts to present an inaccurate account of the environmental situation at Douglass.” 

Familias Unidas del Chamizal said they are willing to go as far as taking the matter up to the TEA in Austin. 

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