Fort Worth

January 12, 2014

Young Women’s Leadership Academy opens new downtown campus

The school will get further improvements as part of 2013 bond program, which has entered its first phase.

Abbi Zametz’s school wasn’t at the same place after winter break.

The eighth-grade student attends Fort Worth’s Young Women’s Leadership Academy, which was in a converted office building on West Magnolia Avenue until the holidays.

When Zametz and her schoolmates returned to classes last week, it was at a new downtown campus.

“Well, we came to an amazing campus,” Zametz, 13, said of their surroundings. “It is a really cool campus.”

Young Women’s Leadership Academy is the district’s first single gender school and emphasizes math, science and technology. There are 267 students in grades six through 10 in the school, which has been adding a grade level each year. The first graduating class will be in 2016.

The YMLA project has cost an estimated $7.75 million to date, according to the school district.

Last year, the district used $4.45 million from its general fund to buy the Tarrant County Education Center buildingm, 401 E. Eighth St., from the county. That amount will be paid back to the general fund with money from the most recent bond program, which voters approved in November.

An additional $3.93 million in bond money is expected to be budgeted for more improvements at the school.

District leaders said the all-girl school ran out of room at the Magnolia campus, which will be converted into the district’s new World Languages Institute.

‘I think it is amazing’

The academy was moved downtown over winter break. As students started classes again, finishing touches continued to be made on three floors of the four-floor building.

“I love it,” said Ehrica Martin, dean of instruction. “I think it is amazing.”

Martin said the new facility is set up for 21st-century learning, with wireless hot spots in the hallways and labs with ample room for robotics.

“It gives the girls space and opportunities to build their robots,” Martin said, explaining that the school aims to promote science, technology, engineering and math.

Superintendent Walter Dansby said that even though some renovation continues, the campus is ready for learning.

On a recent tour, Dansby explained that some of the features on the new campus will later be seen at other schools in the district as part of the bond issue. For example, the new downtown facility had security features at the entrance with cameras, locked entry doors and buzzers for visitors.

‘We love the design inside’

The school has a modern feel with large windows that look out into portions of downtown Fort Worth.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said parent Miles Acuna-Taylor, who has two daughters at the academy. “We love the design inside.”

Other parents, however, said they would like to see more amenities, including more green space for sports and outdoor gatherings and a large auditorium for performances.

“We are grateful for this new building,” said parent Shoshana Thoma-Isgur, who has two daughters at the school. “It definitely addresses a lot of the space issues. However, there are certain things that we find, as parents, that we feel are very important that were not included in the building.

“We don’t have a real gym,” Thoma-Isgur said.

The campus will use sports facilities at I.M Terrell Elementary School, a few miles away at 1411 I.M. Terrell Circle, according to the district. The girls school will use gyms, soccer fields and tracks there, a district spokesman Clint Bond said. Two vans are assigned to the school for transportation.

Bond said students can also use the auditorium at I.M. Terrell.

Phasing in 2013 bond program

Dansby said the first phase of the 2013 bond program has started in earnest, including the third-floor renovation at the academy.

The first phase of the $490 million bond package will also include adding security cameras on campuses, replacing Westpark and Washington Heights elementary schools, adding classrooms at Tanglewood Elementary, expanding various kitchen and dining areas, and upgrading air-conditioning systems.

Dansby is recommending that the school board approve a contract with AECOM Technical Service to provide program management services for the 2013 bond program. The item is scheduled to be presented to the board at Tuesday’s scheduled meeting.

Dansby said the amount of the contract won’t be disclosed until it is presented to the trustees.

“Pending board approval, I can inform you of what that will be,” Dansby said.

AECOM recommended projects for the bond program and managed the 2007 bond program under previous contracts.

“We are just getting to work — that’s the bottom line,” said Raymond Castillo, an AECOM deputy program director working with the district.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board is expected to select members for the Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which will help monitor the 2013 bond program.

 Staff researcher Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.

 This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Related content



Editor's Choice Videos