Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
In August, my kids went back for another year at Beacon Hill Dual Language Academy in the shadow of a crumbling, vacant school building abandoned 20 years ago. Old pipes stick out of the wall, as if they just sawed the school in half and left it. The windows and doorways are boarded up. This deteriorating building tells our children that they deserve to live in blight.
Last year, an architectural study found that the building was in danger of falling on the playground. San Antonio ISD wisely fenced it off to protect our children. But every day my kids ask, “Mommy, when can we play on the playground?” And every day I answer, “I’m working as I hard as I can to get your playground back.” This is unacceptable. It is time to put kids first.
When I attended Beacon Hill, I remember jumping down the stairs of the old building to the basement classrooms, sliding down the fire escape, and playing tetherball in the courtyard after lunch. There was an enormous field where the new school now sits. I dreaded running the field during PE, but I looked forward to playing Sizzle Ball in Mr. Luna's class, and Field Day was a huge event.
Field Day isn’t the same anymore – because we don’t have a field. But the piece of land that we could use is right where the building stands. And this year, for the first time, there are eighth-graders on campus with new sports teams, but no place to practice.
Last November, Beacon Hill parents and teachers began organizing with COPS/Metro to say "enough is enough." At first, we did not care whether it was restored or demolished – we just wanted something done.
On Jan. 30, we organized an assembly with 178 parents, staff, and community members. Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), the primary advocate for renovation, committed to creating a plan – with funding sources – by March 1.
In elementary school we learned to count.
Ten months later, we have zero.
Zero dollars committed. Zero letters of interest. Zero proposals.
Many have said they want to restore the building, but no one has offered to fund the estimated $4.4 million renovation. While historic tax credits would cover about 40 percent of the cost, where would the rest of the funds come from? San Antonio ISD? That money is better invested in my child’s education. Community fundraiser? We don’t have those resources. Increased taxes? I hope not. The City of San Antonio looked for interested parties to buy the old school, but this is not a place for apartments, condominiums, or businesses. This is a place for kids.
With zero financial commitments to fund the renovation, we believe demolition is the best option. We are tired of excuses and the runaround, and we are not alone. SAISD Trustee Christina Martinez led the school board in unanimously voting to file a demolition permit. With the exception of Treviño, every other elected official that represents Beacon Hill joined Martinez in our push for demolition. State Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), and County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) all wrote letters in support of demolition. Treviño is the only elected official who does not support putting our kids before the dilapidated building.
On Nov. 7, the City’s Historic and Design Review Commission will vote on whether to approve the demolition permit or designate the building as historic. If the building is designated as historic, then we’re back to where we started, with a deteriorating building and no funds for restoration.
I have fond memories of the old building, but it is not my primary concern. My kids are my concern. I’m tired of them learning next to a deteriorating building. I’m tired of them not playing on a playground.
The question now is whether the City cares more about an old building or our kids.
I will have children at Beacon Hill for another 10 years. I want my kids to have fond memories of school like I did. Their memories should not be of a fenced off playground next to a deteriorating building.
If there is no money to renovate, then the choice should be clear. Do not force our children to look at this ruin every day. Do not force them to have Field Day indoors. Do not force them to practice football on a strip of grass next to a sidewalk and a close to a busy street.
It is time to put our kids first.