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Mission CISD responds to demolition backlash

Since Mission CISD demolished the historic Roosevelt Auditorium in early June, Mission community members have been vocal about their disapproval. A handful of residents spoke at meetings for the school board, Mission City Council and the Mission Historical Preservation Commission. But Mission CISD administration has been tight-lipped on the issue — until now. 

Progress Times sought comment from the district on June 6, but administration held their response until after workers demolished most of the building on June 9. But since administration presented the demolition topic at an April 2021 board meeting, MCISD has maintained that it would have been too expensive to repair and restore the nationally registered site. 

Courtesy photo – the from entrance of the former Roosevelt Auditorium

The auditorium was the last-standing structure of the former Roosevelt School — once the only school for Spanish-speaking children in Mission when the city segregated white people to the north of the railroad and Mexican people to the south.  

Mission CISD responded to the community backlash in an email through the public relations and marketing department. 

“The cost of restoring the condition of the facility from where it is into a safe and usable facility is so high that it is hard to imagine any scenario where halting demolition now would do anything more than prolong the inevitable,” the email said. “As the engineer’s report shows, time and the elements are demolishing the facility. In 2021 it was estimated that [the] cost to halt further deterioration of the building would be approximately $1.5 million. That amount would be much higher now because of inflation. So, to stop demolition, the district would either have to decide to let the elements continue to demolish the building or commit roughly $2 million [to repair] the roof to essentially put a bandage on the building.” 

According to the now-retired Director of Public Relations Craig Verley, by 2021, the building had “been in a state of deterioration” for at least 15 years before Hurricane Hanna exacerbated the issue in the summer of 2020. In November 2020, Hinojosa Structural Engineering reported that 30% of the roof structure collapsed and 100% of the floor was damaged.  

Additionally, the estimated $2 million would not account for interior repairs necessary to bring the building into compliance with state and local laws to make it usable. The district’s email stated that Mission CISD would have also needed to address restroom facilities, fire protection, HVAC systems, parking and space requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Texas Education Agency standards. 

Administration also maintains that grant funding would not have been enough to cover the cost of the repairs, so the expenses would have had to come out of the district’s budget, which was $174.6 million for the 2022-2023 school year and $189.3 million for the previous school year. 

“That money comes from the funds used to pay teachers and staff and to provide educational services to students,” the email said. 

Despite the cost issue, those opposed to the demolition said they felt Mission CISD did not do enough to inform the community of the situation with Roosevelt Auditorium beforehand. Community members have continued questioning why the topic never came up at a Mission City Council meeting and why the Mission Historical Preservation Commission did not intervene. 

MCISD explained the legal process they went through to get to the point of demolition in their email. 

“The district notified the Texas Historical Commission about the facility and provided the commission with information regarding the condition of the facility and information that was requested by the commission,” the email said. “The auditorium’s designation as a historical facility comes from the state of Texas and so the district provided notice to the Texas State Historical Commission. The district did communicate with members of the local and Hidalgo County Historical Commission early in the process of evaluating options for the building. The district was advised no funding support was available.” 

However, since Mission CISD began discussing the demolition, they also discussed creating a memorial for the historic Roosevelt Auditorium. Before workers completely tore down the building, they carefully removed certain design elements for preservation to incorporate into a monument commemorating the Roosevelt School. Administration instructed the demolition team to save bricks, roofing tiles, auditorium seats and the iconic bas-relief-style panels above the front entrance with design elements that include a torch and owl. 

“It is understandable that many in the community would feel a connection to the building, especially when it was the place where they attended elementary school,” the district said in their email. “This facility represents an important time in history that should not be forgotten. We will do our best to honor that history in our commemoration of the Roosevelt School.”

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