FORT WORTH -- A school for pregnant and parenting teens in the Fort Worth school district has yet another new location planned for next year.
The last-minute reshuffling puts the Center for New Lives in a shopping center off East Lancaster Avenue on a property the district once leased for an alternative middle school, which was shut down to cut costs.
District officials said that some money has already been spent to move the school to Eastern Hills High School and that the shopping center location may not meet some state requirements for on-site child care because it does not have an outdoor play area. But they add that the site will be safer for the teenage girls and their children.
Tomalethia Bacy-Caldwell, who recently graduated through New Lives, said she thinks the Lancaster location is better than Eastern Hills.
"You have a lot going on, a lot of movement at a high school -- that plus little kids running around?" she said. "This will be a much calmer environment where the students can feel free to be themselves."
Last summer, trustees decided to close the Horizons Alternative Middle School as part of budget cuts, which would save $134,706 yearly in rent. The district was then in the second year of a five-year lease agreement. This week, school board members approved a settlement on that lease with Briarwood Lancaster L.P., which owns the property.
The district will now lease the property for one year with an option to renew for two more years for about $165,000 a year.
Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby said the higher amount results from the shorter lease.
Dansby said the opportunity to use the Lancaster site made sense because it is already set up for a school.
"This is a better location for the girls and the kids who will be there because it is safer -- there's more protection from the weather than being in portables and there are no stairs to worry about," Dansby said.
To meet the requirement for a play area, Dansby said, officials are looking into partnering with an off-site day care or renovating an area at the Lancaster site.
The location of New Lives has been a point of contention for trustees this year.
Initially, they agreed to terminate the lease for the New Lives school at the Resource Connection of Tarrant County as the district worked to get a handle on costs.
One trustee suggested placing the school at O.D. Wyatt High School but pulled back after pastors in his area balked at the idea. District staff members offered various options for the school in February, but trustees appeared reluctant to place New Lives at their neighborhood schools.
In April, trustees voted to spend $600,000 to move New Lives to Eastern Hills High School.
Trustee Tobi Jackson said that despite the difficulty finding a location, New Lives students should not feel as if they aren't valued.
"We're trying to find the best possible solution," said Jackson, who represents the east-side area where the school will be. "We want them to be in a facility that allows for the most comprehensive counseling and better outcomes."
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700