Date set for appeals court hearing with BISD over South Park demolition

David Yates Sep. 2, 2009, 9:17am

In two weeks, the Beaumont Independent School District will have an opportunity to convince appellate justices that a lower court erred in enjoining the district from razing South Park Middle School.

Following a three day hearing, Judge Bob Wortham on Aug. 3 granted the Beaumont Heritage Society's and former South Park student Eddie Estilette's request for a temporary injunction, determining that the evidence and testimony presented suggested the district may have misled voters in the 2007 bond election.

A week later, BISD held a board meeting and publicly announced it would appeal Judge Wortham's ruling.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the case will be submitted on legal briefs before justices seated on the Texas Ninth Court of Appeals.

However, no briefs have been filed yet.

An appeals court employee told the Record that the final briefs were not due until Sept. 14.

A trial for a permanent injunction has been set for Sept. 21.
The employee told the Record that justices were aware of the looming trial but could not say if they planned on issuing an opinion before the date.

Case background

At issue is an 86-year-old school building that the district plans to tear down as part of a recent $389 million bond project.

Although South Park weathered three of the area's worst hurricanes and has stood since 1923, BISD claims the building cannot accommodate an expected influx of new middle school students.

In early July, the Beaumont Heritage Society filed and obtained a temporary restraining order, alleging BISD misled voters during the district's $389 million bond issue.

They claim that pamphlets distributed by the Beaumont Chamber of Commerce leading up the bond election stated the district would not tear down South Park, but would renovate the school.

Michael Getz, attorney for the Heritage Society, said voters relied on that information when approving the bond.

During the early August hearing, BISD Superintendent Carrol Thomas testified the district was not responsible for the content in the pamphlets, which he claimed were put together and printed by a local newspaper, The Examiner.

Court documents shows that the school's attendance has dramatically declined in recent years and would, if left standing, bottom out at around 400 students, leading some critics to believe if a new bigger and more expensive middle school is warranted.

The district is represented in part by Melody Chappel.

Trial case No. D184-425
Appeals case No. 09-09-00371

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