Fort Worth

Fort Worth schools staff to reconsider alternative school plans

Middle Level Learning Center is the site of the alternative school for grades 6-8 in the Fort Worth school district.
Middle Level Learning Center is the site of the alternative school for grades 6-8 in the Fort Worth school district. Star-Telegram

Trustees for the Fort Worth school district postponed a vote on a proposal to merge alternative schools for middle and high school students after hearing opposition to the idea late Tuesday.

Fort Worth film producer Steve Riach, who said he has worked with alternative school youth of all ages, said combining the age groups “creates dangerous circumstances for the younger students.”

It “creates a situation where there’s a role model effect that takes place, but it’s not a positive one,” said Riach, who created a character education curriculum for schools.

To improve the usage of buildings across the 86,000-student district, Interim Superintendent Pat Linares had recommended placing Metro Opportunity High School at Middle Level Learning Center, an alternative school for grades 6-8 in Benbrook.

Metro Opportunity has had as few as 22 students in a Cullen Street facility that is large enough for 125, enrollment records show. Meanwhile, Middle Level Learning has had as few as 15 youngsters, district records show.

After hearing public reaction, Linares said she will reconsider the idea.

“I will say that issues have been brought to our attention and concerns,” she said. “Therefore, we will be revisiting this and looking at other options.”

Board member Ann Sutherland said the item should never have made it onto the agenda.

Linares said she is expected to bring options to the board at its next meeting, at 5:30 p.m. April 28 at 2903 Shotts Street.

“It is not necessary to go for a vote until the board has the opportunity to sit and discuss it,’’ Linares told the board Tuesday.

Students are sent to the alternative school environments if they are suspended from school for a violation of the student code of conduct, school officials said.

More than 90 percent of youngsters at both alternative schools are suspended from regular school for non-violent offenses, including persistent misbehavior and classroom disruption, school officials said. The other 10 percent were placed in alternative school because of more serious offenses, such as truancy and assault, school officials said.

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

Twitter: @yberard