By Dallas ISD District 9 Trustee Justin Henry
Dallas ISD is opening a new early learning center at J.J. Rhoads Elementary next school year. This is good news for South Dallas families. The center will offer quality instruction for children in grades pre-K3 and 4, kindergarten, and first grade, giving our youngest learners a strong academic foundation. Working parents will have access to a safe, dependable early learning program from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., including after-school music and art activities.
It’s a fact that students who receive quality pre-K instruction perform better throughout their school years and even into adulthood, so we owe it to our children to welcome this new learning opportunity.
In 2021, the new H.S. Thompson STEAM School opens, offering robust academic instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics for students in grades K-5. And a district-community partnership will create wraparound social services at Rhoads to serve the entire South Dallas community.
Two experienced educators will work together at Rhoads next school year to manage this transition.
Rhoads principal Chaundra Macklin will oversee the expanded early learning center and manage instruction for students from pre-K3 through first grade.
Co-principal Crystal Owens will serve as the instructional leader for Rhoads’ students in grades 2-5 as she staffs and makes plans to open the new H.S. Thompson STEAM school in 2021.
From the beginning, these changes were developed with input and feedback from parents and community residents, including J.J. Rhoads parent and PTO president Aundrey Evans.
“The transformation of Rhoads into an early learning center is what South Dallas needs to build a good educational foundation for students,” Evans said. “We’re also excited that the new STEAM school at Thompson will keep all the kids together as they move into elementary.”
Parent Serena Vazquez also welcomes the early learning center. “In this area, there are a lot of single moms who can’t afford daycare or can’t work because they don’t have anyone to watch their children,” she says. “Families need a safe place for kids to stay. Moms will be able to work knowing their kids are safe and in a good environment.”
Retired Dallas ISD administrator Shirley Ison-Newsome supervised Rhoads and other South Dallas schools for well over a decade. She calls the plan for Rhoads a good model. “Fortunately, J.J. Rhoads is not closing, but is being repurposed in what I consider a very thoughtful and productive manner that brings needed educational services to the community while maintaining this educational institution.”
These changes may well present challenges. Dallas ISD has partnerships with most quality child care providers in South Dallas. While there may be impacts to these partners, Dallas ISD is committed to working with each of them to lessen (and hopefully avoid) any negative outcomes. We know that there are additional children who are not being served, and that is the population Dallas ISD wants to reach.
Learn more and follow the progress of this effort at www.dallasisd.org/southdallas.