Parents of students at some Fort Worth schools aren’t sold yet on the district’s $750 million bond program.
In southeast Fort Worth, plans to move the Young Men’s Leadership Academy closer to Dunbar High School is stirring concerns among parents and allies of the two schools who worry the campuses will lose their identities.
In the Tanglewood community near TCU, parents want to know where a new K-5 school will be built.
Some say if they don’t get answers, they will vote “no” on the Nov. 7 ballot. Early voting began Monday.
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Supporters of YMLA and Dunbar voiced their concerns before the Fort Worth school board Tuesday. Several parents and students carried signs, including one that read: “Our Young Men are scholar athletes! #FullAthleticFacilities.” Six people aired their concerns before the school board.
Before the meeting, Makala Denefield, a YMLA parent, told the Star-Telegram that the district’s plans are too vague. She worries that moving YMLA, the district’s first all-boy middle and high school, closer to Dunbar will landlock the academy and prevent future growth.
The school is housed in the old Dunbar 6th Grade Center, 1.2 miles away in the heart of the historic Stop Six neighborhood.
“They better be thinking of something, or else I am going to be getting with parents and we will be beating the streets to ask that the community vote no on the bond,” Denefield said.
At the meeting, Denefield choked back tears as she addressed the school board.
“Please don’t take away what we currently have to leave us with less,” Denefield said.
If it passes, the $750 million bond program would pay for major upgrades to the district’s 14 high schools, alleviate overcrowding at several schools and invest in specialized programs.
Part of the plan includes an estimated $35.8 million for a new YMLA — adjacent to Dunbar High.
“I’m against the merging of the two or the two sharing facilities,” said Gabretta Guerin, who graduated from Dunbar in 1991. “That’s not going to work. That’s going to be a disaster. ... YMLA deserves their own facility.”
Parents are also concerned that the district will combine many of the two schools’ functions, including athletics.
YMLA is in its second year having a varsity football program and is 3-1 in District 7-5A. The Cougars play South Hills High School on Friday.
“I think YMLA deserves their own everything,” parent Penni Askew said. “I think that’s only fair. ... They have actually earned the right to have their athletic facilities. They are winning.”
She also questions whether shared athletic facilities will mean that YMLA and Dunbar athletes will play on the same teams.
“You cannot merge,” Askew said. “Who are the coaches going to be? ... Which kids are going to get the most playing time?”
School district officials say no decision has been made regarding athletics at the two schools.
“We will work with YMLA, Dunbar and the UIL to determine the most appropriate course of action regarding YMLA athletics,” said Clint Bond, school district spokesman.
Before the meeting, Akim White, a 14-year-old freshman, said he feels like the district treats the school as an afterthought.
“I don’t want us to become another school that has more portables in order to have more room,” he said.
District 3 Trustee Christene Moss, who represents YMLA and Dunbar, said the district has tried to address the concerns in the past. She said the proposed new school would be located near Loop 820 adjacent to a Tarrant County College campus. She said the district was addressing space issues when they began outlining a plan.
Moss said she will not allow one campus to absorb the other.
“I will not allow that,” she said before the meeting. “YMLA is so important to the Stop Six area. ... It is going to be an academy like it is now.”
In the Tanglewood community, plans for a new K-5 campus have parents with many of the same questions. Tanglewood families have been outspoken critics of the rollout of the bond proposal. Some have questioned why the district didn’t buy vacant land and earmark it for school expansion before overcrowding became a problem.
Tanglewood’s current attendance zone is bounded by South University Drive, Bellaire Drive South, Loop 820 and Bryant Irvin Road. A proposed map presented at recent town halls would divide the zone near the intersection of South Hulen Street and Bellaire Drive.
“We have taken a considerable amount of time to work closely with neighborhood groups and community leaders to develop a consensus on a proposed boundary,” Bond said. “And as soon as we finalize a land agreement, we will make that announcement.”
Bond could not say if that announcement is expected before the bond election.