A community of deaf students has been left in a tough spot following a vote to close several schools in North Texas.

Plano ISD’s school board voted on Monday to close four campuses, including Davis Elementary, home of the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf. The program serves students who are deaf and hard of hearing with deaf education teachers, interpreters, assistants, and other resources.

But after a vote to close four campuses across Plano ISD, Davis students and families were left feeling disappointed and uneasy about the future. The Regional Day School Program for the Deaf will be relocated to Harrington Elementary, while the other students who are not part of the program will be divided between Harrington Elementary and Saigling Elementary.

Erica Salcido created a petition on May 22 to keep Davis open. The petition has gained over 1,000 of its target 1,500 signatures. A Facebook page titled “Save Davis Elementary” was also created.

Though the deaf and hard-of-hearing program is being relocated, many Davis parents and community members shared their disappointment with the board’s decision and purported lack of communication with The Dallas Express.

The district’s long-range planning committee had previously held meetings to gather parent feedback on the potential closures. However, no one from Davis or the deaf community was purportedly invited to sit on the committee.

Parents were sent an email on May 21 announcing the potential closure of the campus. The email was allegedly sent out three minutes before the meeting started, leaving many parents unable to attend.

“We had to specifically ask for interpreters to be included in future meetings so our deaf and hard of hearing members would be included,” Sara Foxworthy told The Dallas Express.

The Plano ISD school board also had a special meeting on June 10, inviting families who would “potentially” be impacted by the closures to sign up to offer their input.

“They gave us a five-hour work day to do so — many of us were unable to sign up,” Foxworthy said.

She further noted that during the June 10 meeting, the board reiterated that it had not made a decision.

“However, the presentation they gave, the questions they asked, the redundancy of the speaking points each of them hit on over and over to ultimately lead to a unanimous vote, made it very clear that this vote was decided on [May 21],” Foxworthy claimed. “The board should be ashamed of themselves. They gave us hope when there was none, and for that, I am forever ashamed they represent Plano ISD.”

One parent of a deaf student who attends Davis Elementary shared how her daughter has been able to accept and love who she is, thanks to the campus environment and culture. The family had issues at previous schools, where their daughter was made fun of, but Davis has been positive thus far.

“The Davis kids accept her and understand her for who she is. They don’t treat her different or call her weird like the kids at other schools did,” Allison Richardson shared.

Richardson further noted that the teachers at the other schools already have special education students, and with these deaf and hard-of-hearing students coming over, it will be challenging.

“The kids are not guinea pigs and deserve so much more. Society already treats them differently. Now their safe place outside of the home will treat them differently, too,” Richardson said.

Another parent also shared her grief with DX.

“We are now deeply disillusioned by the PISD board’s recent decisions. The Davis families feel blindsided and betrayed, having lost all faith in the board’s integrity. This decision was handled poorly, leaving us infuriated and feeling dismissed,” Tami Eager shared.

Eager, a commercial interior architectural designer, said that the school board’s claim that Davis suffered from poor building conditions was “questionable.” She argued that she had renovated many older properties in worse condition than the elementary school building.

“The board’s excuse was inadequate and revealed a gross incompetence in their job execution. Their focus on money over creative solutions sends a terrible message to our children. We expect better,” Eager told DX.

Audrey Whitaker, another Plano ISD parent, said she believes Davis was closed for reasons other than those stated by the school board.

“To close the schools with the dual language programs and the specific special needs school, that can’t be by accident,” Whitaker said.

One parent took the step to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

“I submitted my complaint and it’s been approved and sent to another department. … Step 1 done. It is not right to make decisions about a community, in this case the Deaf community, without having representatives of that community. They have NO idea how this will affect the deaf kids,” Shawnda Krajca wrote on the Save Davis Elementary Facebook page.

Many North Texas public school districts have been facing potential campus closures because of shrinking student enrollment and the consequent loss of taxpayer funds tied to the kids, as covered extensively by The Dallas Express. While Plano ISD officials have claimed demographic shifts and high housing costs in parts of its attendance zones have contributed to its situation, some districts, like Dallas ISD, have been losing students to competitors promising stronger academic offerings.

The latest available Texas Education Agency accountability report shows only 41% of Dallas ISD students scored at grade level on the STAAR exam in 2021-2022. That same school year, almost 20% of its graduating class failed to obtain a diploma in four years.

In comparison, Plano ISD saw 62% of its students hit grade level on the 2021-2022 STAAR, beating out both Dallas ISD and the state average of 48%. Plano ISD’s on-time graduation that year was 95.1%.