Fort Worth

Fort Worth trustees favor new schools at historic Terrell campus

I.M. Terrell Elementary School occupies the former I.M. Terrell High School, a high school for African-Americans until 1973.
I.M. Terrell Elementary School occupies the former I.M. Terrell High School, a high school for African-Americans until 1973. Star-Telegram archives

Upgrading the historic I.M. Terrell school building on a rise east of downtown would be the most cost-effective way to house two new showcase high schools by fall 2017, according to a district feasibility study presented Wednesday night.

It would cost an estimated $68.4 million to make the building ready for the new Visual and Performing Arts School and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Academy. That would be about $20 million cheaper than two other options, including building a new facility on land near Farrington Field, according to the study.

No trustee voiced opposition to the idea at a workshop on the feasibility study.

Trustee T.A. Sims recommended the I.M. Terrell location late last year during debate about a site for the campuses.

“I am 100 percent for I.M. Terrell,’’ Trustee Tobi Jackson said.

Trustee Christene Moss also expressed support. “I’m glad that we are at this point and I hope that, from here on, we will move forward rapidly,’’ Moss said. “I know we’ve lagged in the past because of finances … we need to work together and get this done as rapidly as possible.”

The board is expected to approve the Terrell proposal at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

“We plan to vote on this Tuesday night,’’ Trustee Ann Sutherland said. “So if you have strong feelings one way or another, you need to make sure we need to know. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

The I.M. Terrell school is now an elementary school and houses the district’s technology division. It is best known as a public high school for African-Americans from 1936 until it was closed in 1973. It reopened in 1998 as an elementary school.

A portion of the building dates to 1910. Additions were made in 1937, 1956 and 1959.

The campus is in a triangle created by Interstate 35, Interstate 30 and U.S. 287. Its neighbors include the Butler public housing community.

Both new schools were approved by voters under Proposition 2 in a $490 million bond package in November 2013. The bond package set aside $73.3 million for the two campuses.

New construction will include a 900-seat auditorium and a new kitchen, district officials said. Students from both programs could share the gymnasiums and core classes, such as languages, social studies and health, school officials said.

A single campus director would be in charge of the two showcase schools, but each school would have its own coordinator.

About 300 students are expected to attend the STEM Academy. About 200 would have an emphasis on mechanical engineering; the remainder would be focused on electrical engineering. The programs will include study of robotics and computer science.

The Visual and Performing Arts School is planned for about 300 students. About 45 would have an emphasis in dance, 75 in visual arts, 103 in music, and 77 in theater, officials said.

Designing renovations and new construction is expected to begin in April, according to the district’s Los Angeles-based program management firm, AECOM. A construction contractor would be hired by Dec. 1. Construction would take about 20 months. Both schools could open in the fall 2017.

About 200 students who attend I.M. Terrell Elementary will be assigned to nearby campuses. About $10 million has been set aside to pay for construction of new classrooms at those schools, Interim Superintendent Pat Linares said.

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

Twitter: @yberard