Education

Renovations at this Fort Worth school will preserve its history

Middle school art students work on their projects at the Paul Laurence Dunbar Young Men’s Leadership Academy which will be enlarged and improved in time for the 2020 school year, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (FWISD/Rodger Mallison)
Middle school art students work on their projects at the Paul Laurence Dunbar Young Men’s Leadership Academy which will be enlarged and improved in time for the 2020 school year, Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (FWISD/Rodger Mallison) Fort Worth school district

The blueprint for the Young Men’s Leadership Academy has changed.

The school, scheduled to be renovated by the 2020 school year, is likely to remain at 5100 Willie St. instead of moving closer to Dunbar High School — a plan that signals a change for the Fort Worth school district.

The district had originally planned to relocate three specialized campuses as part of the $750 million bond package voters approved in November 2017.

In upcoming weeks, Superintendent Kent P. Scribner will recommend to the school board that YMLA undergo a complete renovation and remain at its location. The change to the bond project requires action from the school board.

The district’s plans to build a new school at a different location were reconsidered after a proposed 2 1/2-acre site was deemed to have too many constraints, the district said in a news release.

“After lengthy consideration, we came to realize the best place for a new YMLA is right where it has been all along,” Scribner said in the release. “We pledged to voters who approved our 2017 bond projects that we would utilize funds and resources in the most effective way possible for our students. This plan does exactly that.”

The district had been looking at working with the Tarrant County College District to build a new YMLA campus at 5901 Fitzhugh Ave.

But now, proposed plans include adding 15,000-20,000 square feet to the 67-year-old building for an estimated $30 million. The addition would create a structure totaling about 108,000 square feet. Additions include science/engineering labs, more classrooms and a new competition gymnasium.

“We will get more bang for our buck,” Scribner said.

YMLA sits on 10 acres — space that is expected to provide more room for the gymnasium, outdoor areas and on-site parking, Scribner said.

“We can expect a state-of-the-art school,” Scribner told the Star-Telegram.

The school’s athletic program will continue with basketball, soccer and track, Scribner said.

The school dropped football before the 2018 season.

Scribner said the project will modernize and honor a building that is a legacy in the Stop Six community.

The previous plans for YMLA drew opposition from parents and school supporters who questioned moving the all-male YMLA closer to nearby Dunbar High School, at 5700 Ramey Ave.

Supporters of YMLA also didn’t like plans for the two schools to share athletic facilities.

Trustee Christene Moss, who represents the Stop Six area, said they have more space to upgrade the academy by staying at the Willie Street site.

“It’s more space and we can create other spaces around the school,” Moss said.

Moss said the school building is important to generations of families.

“It’s been the high school, middle school the sixth grade center,” Moss said. “I would hate to see it empty out and become dormant. ... It’s the hub of Stop Six.”

There has been a Fort Worth school district school on the Willie Street site since 1927, according to the district. In 1952, the present building opened as Dunbar Elementary-Junior High School. The two-story yellow-and-red brick building was the original Dunbar High School, which was named after African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

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