Universal preschool, classrooms, tech, security upgrades at core of Fort Worth school bond

Posted Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Proposition 1 at a glance Renovations and replacement campus: Includes districtwide upgrades and improvements to items such as exterior lighting, restroom plumbing and auditorium seating. An aging Washington Heights Elementary School campus would be replaced. Cost: $42,608,489 Security: Districtwide upgrades include the expansion of surveillance systems, including interior and exterior cameras, intercoms, and new access controls at the main entrance of each school. Cost: $12,120,000 Technology Readiness: Districtwide upgrades that enhance networks and distance learning. It also supports a mobile one-to-one program that would equip high school students with a laptop or tablet. Cost: $102,490,834 Food services: 24 kitchen additions, 5 kitchen/dining additions, 13 high school cafes equipped with technology that allows students to use laptops or tablets while eating. The e-cafes aim to keep students on campus during lunch. Cost: $55,172,000 Athletic facilities: All 13 high schools would get new field houses. These structures have been described by students as cramped and sorely outdated. The proposed bond also includes a new field house for Scarborough-Handley Field, used for football and soccer. Cost: $14,000,000 Americans With Disabilities Act: Projects to comply with Texas accessibility standards. Cost: $1,000,000 New schools and additions: Twelve new classrooms are planned at Carter-Riverside High School, eight at Luella Merrett Elementary, 10 at Lowery Road Elementary, six at West Handley Elementary, eight at W.M. Green Elementary, 10 at D.K. Sellers Elementary and 10 at Western Hills Elementary. Twenty new classrooms are planned at Paschal High School, 12 at McLean Middle School, eight at McLean 6th and 14 at Tanglewood Elementary. Benbrook Middle School and Westpark Elementary School would be converted into a new high school complex for grades six through 12. Westpark students would move to a new campus. Cost: $59,587,500 Pre-kindergarten: Facilities to serve all four-year-olds under a districtwide early childhood learning program. Some 3,000 four-year-olds are currently not served. A total of 82 classrooms would be added at 15 elementary schools: Greenbriar, Mitchell Blvd., Sam Rosen, Atwood McDonald, Springdale, Woodway, Diamond Hill, Benbrook, R.J. Wilson, Moss, Westcliff, Merrett, Lowery Road, West Handley and Green. Cost: $23,950,000 Programs of Choice: Eastern Hills High School would get a new courtroom classroom for its law enforcement and legal services program for students interested in criminal justice. Space at J.T. Stevens Elementary School would be renovated to accommodate the district’s third applied learning center for elementary students. Cost: $500,000 Career Technology Education: Dunbar High School’s aviation technology program would get a new hanger, Trimble Tech High School’s auto shop and a residential kitchen at O.D. Wyatt High School would be renovated with new equipment. Cost: $3,100,000 Other direct costs: Includes land costs for Westpark Elementary and costs for construction projects that occur off the job site. Cost: $6,950,000 Indirect costs: Includes construction and design contingencies, escalation, professional services and consultants. Cost: $65,073,305 Source: Fort Worth school district
Fort Worth bond tax The three propositions are projected to add up to 3 cents to the tax rate, costing $30 more per year for a $115,599 home with a $15,000 homestead exemption, the value of an average home in the district. Proposition 1 would add about 1 cent to the tax rate, costing $10 more per year. Proposition 2 would add an additional 1.25 cents to the tax rate. Proposition 3 would add an additional 0.75 cent to the tax rate. The current tax rate is $1.322, with $1.04 for operations and 28 cents for debt repayment. Source: Fort Worth school district

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This is the first of a three-part series examining the FWISD bond propositions.

FORT WORTH - Free districtwide prekindergarten to put Fort Worth’s children on a path to success, new classrooms to ease overcrowding, and high-tech devices to help students excel in the digital age are the foundation of the largest of three propositions in a Nov. 5 bond package.

Proposition 1 is a sweeping 11-point proposal that Superintendent Walter Dansby calls “the essentials.” Every student in the district will benefit from the $386.6 million proposition, he said.

“We felt like these were the most essential elements that we needed in place to give our kids those advantages that others have,” Dansby said. “It’s very important that we have those, and they are aligned to improving or assisting with student development and classroom instruction.”

If voters approve Proposition 1, students will have 167 new classrooms, campus visitors will see tighter security and football players will train in updated athletic field houses.

The bond program has captured the attention of activists who want to ensure that their neighborhood schools will benefit.

“We want to see that Carter-Riverside gets their fair deserve of the money,” said Cathy Seifert, who serves on Carter-Riverside High School’s site-based decision-making team. “We would like to see all the portables gone, but I know that is probably not going to be the case.”

Trustees voted unanimously Friday to send the bond proposal to voters.

The original $785 million proposal was tweaked after parents at Tanglewood Elementary School swiftly mounted a campaign against moving students to a new campus west of Hulen Street, allowing McLean Sixth Grade Center students to move into the old Tanglewood building.

To address overcrowding in the Paschal pyramid, trustees added classrooms at Paschal High School, McLean Sixth and Tanglewood to the package.

Last week, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce created Citizens Supporting Classroom Excellence, a political action committee that will raise funds to promote the bond package. In coming weeks, district officials will hold community meetings to discuss the projects.

Voters will consider three propositions totaling $490 million.

Proposition 2 includes $73.3 million to open two new schools — a performing and fine arts school and a campus for science, technology, engineering and math — for grades sixth to 12. Proposition 3 includes $30 million for non-construction projects including buses, maintenance trucks, band uniforms and instruments.

Here’s how Proposition 1 breaks down:

Expanding for growth

A hallmark of Proposition 1 is classroom additions at several schools to expand prekindergarten and ease overcrowding in the growing district. Fort Worth has added 4,634 students since 2007-2008 and is expected to grow by 4,426 students by the 2017-2018 school year. School officals said about 400 students transferred into the district from private schools last year.

Universal prekindergarten

Dansby has visited San Antonio twice to learn about the city’s prekindergarten program. City voters in November 2012 approved a 1/8-cent increase in the sales tax rate to support prekindergarten programs for all 4-year-olds. When the Pre-K 4 SA initiative is fully implemented, 3,700 4-year-olds will be educated annually, according to the city of San Antonio.

The city will partner with area school districts to offer the service, according to the city’s website.

In Fort Worth, officials want to expand the prekindergarten program to serve the district’s 7,000 eligible 4-year-olds. Currently, there’s room for 4,000.

Educators say prekindergarten is essential to help prepare children for learning. Teachers say students who have that foundation have an advantage in the classroom and experts say they perform better on tests.

Proposition 1 includes $24 million to build additions at 15 schools that will add 82 prekindergarten classrooms. Dansby said the additions will bring prekindergarten to almost every elementary school in Fort Worth.

New construction

Proposition 1 also calls for converting Benbrook Middle School and Westpark Elementary into a high school complex for grades six through 12. Westpark students would move to a new campus.

“In Benbrook, people are all behind it,” said Bobby Spence, who has a daughter attending Benbrook Middle.

Benbrook residents are generally pleased with the possibility of a Benbrook high school, he said. Many Benbrook parents currently transfer their children to Paschal, Arlington Heights or nearby Brewer High School, in the White Settlement school district, rather than sending them to Western Hills High School.

Preparing for the digital age

Technology long familiar to many suburban students, such as laptops and tablets that are used as an educational tool, are funded in Proposition 1. The mobile one-to-one initiative, which would provide a laptop or tablet to every high school student, would cost about $15 million.

Crowley schools are issuing iPads to 7,000 students, and the Mansfield school district equipped 9,000 high school students and 500 teachers with iPads last year. The Northwest school district is entering its fifth year of providing computers to sixth through 12th-grade students. This year, Northwest schools students and secondary teachers will get Dell Latitude 10 tablets and elementary teachers will get iPads.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1 Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326 Twitter: @jessamybrown

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