School trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to place the district’s new showcase schools — the Visual & Performing Arts School and the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Academy — in a historic building that was once a city high school for black students.
There was little discussion on the selection of the site. The vote was 8-0, with Trustee Judy Needham absent because of illness.
Board member T.A. Sims made the motion, and Trustee Tobi Jackson seconded it.
“I would like to thank my colleagues for getting through this decision and also having our heads in place,” Trustee Ashley Paz said.
“This is probably the single issue that I have heard the most feedback from both sides of the aisle about, and it has been good feedback all the way around. I think this is going to be an awesome place to have the school.”
Several I.M. Terrell alumni attended Tuesday’s meeting to voice support for the choice. The group included Devoyd Jennings, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce. Jennings is a 1966 graduate of I.M. Terrell.
“You’ve seen the history; you’ve heard the history,” Jennings told trustees during the public comment portion of the board meeting. “I say to you, when you look at I.M. Terrell, when you look at the arts program and you look at the STEM program, ladies and gentlemen, this is a back-to-the-future moment because that’s what we had at our I.M. Terrell all the time — excellence.”
Jennings referred to his alma mater as the “beacon on the hill” because the building is on an incline that overlooks downtown Fort Worth.
The campus is in a triangle created by Interstate 35, Interstate 30 and U.S. 287. Its neighbors include the Butler public housing community.
The school is now an elementary school and houses the district’s technology division. But it remains 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.
Part of the building dates to 1910. Additions were made in 1937, 1956 and 1959.
The Visual & Performing Arts School and the STEM Academy were approved by voters in a $490 million bond package in November 2013. It set aside $73.3 million for the two campuses.
The plan is to upgrade the I.M. Terrell building, school officials have said. According to a district feasibility study, the schools will open by fall 2017.
It will cost an estimated $68.4 million to make the building ready for the two schools. That is about $20 million cheaper than two other options, including building a new facility near Farrington Field, according to the study.
New construction will include a 900-seat auditorium and a 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 will be in charge of the two showcase schools, but each school will have its own coordinator.
About 300 students are expected to attend the STEM Academy. About 200 would have an emphasis on mechanical engineering; the rest would be focused on electrical engineering. The programs will include robotics and computer science.
The Visual & 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.
Design work on the 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, and construction would take about 20 months.
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 classrooms at those schools, interim Superintendent Pat Linares said.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705