Fort Worth school board expected to approve additions to South Hills Elementary

FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth school board is scheduled to vote tonight on adding classrooms and a cafeteria to South Hills Elementary School, spending bond money that was originally intended to be used for a new school in the area.

District officials voted last month to scrap the plans for the new school. A recent demographic report showed that growth in the South Hills area is expected to be 2 percent, similar to what was expected when the bond was passed in 2007. But when boundary adjustments were taken into account for the planned opening of a new elementary school in the Rosemont neighborhood, it was determined that adding on to South Hills would be sufficient to serve the need.

That will include adding 14 classrooms and a larger cafeteria. The existing cafeteria would be converted into two classrooms for music and art.

"It just makes good practical use for the building," Deputy Superintendent Walter Dansby said. "This is going to take care of the overcrowding."

Betty Davies, a school volunteer who has been closely watching the bond program, said she is glad improvements are finally set to begin at South Hills. Davies said the community was disappointed when the school did not get improvements as planned in the 1999 bond program that was fraught with problems.

"I think the addition will be sufficient, but I'll believe it when I see it," Davies said.

South Hills opened in 1954 to accommodate 354 students. It now serves about 920, with nine portable buildings on the campus.

Dansby said the additions would bring capacity to just more than 900 and should eliminate the need for portables.

With the Rosemont-area school scheduled to open in 2011, boundaries will be adjusted, creating a domino effect for nearby schools. It is expected that South Hills' enrollment will be about 800 after the new elementary opens, Dansby said.

Today's vote is to approve $3 million for work at South Hills that would cover the addition. If approved, work would begin this summer and would be expected to be completed by next spring.

On April 27, the board voted to move the $15 million originally intended for the new elementary school in the South Hills area into contingency funds.

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700