In the sixth grade, Brianna Horn had two options: attend seventh grade at a school that will be torn down next year or go to the one farther from home where she will eventually end up anyway.
She chose the former, 50-year-old Guy C. Hutcheson Junior High School at 1201 Browning Drive. When she and her classmates walked through the doors the first week of school, they made history.
Brianna, 12, and her fellow students are the last seventh- and eighth-grade students ever to attend the school, built in 1963. After 70 percent of Arlington voters approved a bond package in May, the district got the OK to tear down Hutcheson to make way for a districtwide career and technical center.
“I have more pride in this school because there is only a year left,” Brianna said.
Brianna’s grandmother, Demi Garland, said this year is significant.
“They have pictures on the walls of all the years gone by. This school is not going to be here, but the memories will,” Garland said. “There’s something to being a part of the last class.”
The demolition kicks off a domino effect that will send many of the district’s students to different schools next year.
Hutcheson students will go to rival Workman Junior High. Non-English speakers at Workman and alternative school teens at Venture High School will attend Ferguson Junior High. Ferguson students will head to Ousley Junior High, also a rival.
So much change is not likely to come easily, students and administrators said.
“There’s going to be a lot of drama,” said alumna Ida Garrett, who was on the Lady Show Stoppers Step Team at Hutcheson a few years ago. Workman students “have bad vibes about Hutch. They used to try to fight us at basketball and football games.”
Former Hutcheson Principal David Tapia said his students weren’t welcomed at other schools. The school has a reputation for being rough, and even Tapia would call it “Fort Hutch” at times.
“I feel like the kids in east Arlington really do have a rougher upbringing. They face a lot of challenges that kids on the west side don’t,” he said. “These kids, I would tell my staff, ‘It’s not their fault where their address is. The adversity they face every day just makes them better.’ ”
Attending a rival school will come with challenges, he said.
“It’s really going to be up to the principals of those junior high schools to foster school spirit. It’s going to be very much ‘us versus them,’ ” Tapia said.
For his part, Tapia said the decision to demolish Hutcheson made him realize it was time to leave the Arlington school district and start his a real estate investment company in Fort Worth.
“I had a fantastic, wonderful career,” Tapia said. “But it did really feel like this was a sign for me to take the next step.”
Tapia acknowledged that the Hutcheson building has problems.
“There were a lot of HVAC issues, asbestos, things you’d find in a building that is 50 years old. We had some classes that felt 90 degrees and some that were 50. My opinion is it would be more expensive to continue to run it in the condition it’s in,” he said.
Venture High and Newcomer Center
Elsewhere in the district, some people are concerned about the shift that combines at-risk alternative students from Venture with non-English speakers from Newcomer Center, all of whom will attend Ferguson Junior High.
Kevin Morales, who moved to Arlington from Mexico City to live with his dad in 2005, attended the Newcomer Center at Workman.
He thrived, took the opportunity to earn as many credits as he could and played on a recreational softball team.
“I liked it. It was really welcoming,” Morales, now 24, said. After two years at Newcomer, he transferred to Martin High School.
He said he doesn’t think combining the students is a good idea. At Venture, the at-risk students in grades 9-12 work at their own pace. Students must apply to attend.
“It feels like the district is combining them to save money. Because [Newcomer students] don’t really know how to live in America, the new kids are just going to get poisoned,” Morales said.
But Mary Catherine Monroe, who volunteers now after teaching at Venture for 18 years, said teachers there love it.
“I always got along with the good, smart kids, but I also got along with the ones who had trouble fitting in. I decided I wanted to be at a place where we could be more flexible and deal with students one one one,” Monroe said of her decision to leave Boles Junior High for Venture.
Students at Venture are bused from the neighborhoods of their home schools such as Arlington High School and Sam Houston.
“Some of the kids come here for a couple years and you become very attached to them. When you can sit across the table from them and talk to them one on one there is a special bond,” Monroe said.