How plans for new school for Tanglewood families are moving forward

Plans are underway to build a new elementary to relieve crowding at Fort Worth’s Tanglewood Elementary. The new school is scheduled to open in August 2020.
Plans are underway to build a new elementary to relieve crowding at Fort Worth’s Tanglewood Elementary. The new school is scheduled to open in August 2020. Star-Telegram file photo

The new elementary school serving families in the Tanglewood area doesn’t have a city-issued formal address yet, but it has an official name: Overton Park Elementary.

Construction for the new school begins June 6 with a groundbreaking ceremony. By August 2020, students in grades pre-kindergarten through five will be welcomed for learning.

The school will be at the corner of Kings Ridge and Briarhaven Road, next to Ahavath Sholom at 4050 S. Hulen St.

Trustee Judy Needham, one of two school board members to represent families attending Tanglewood Elementary, said the new name signals the beginning of an emerging school community. She said residents in neighborhoods near the new school chose the name.

“I think it’s very important that they want to establish their own sense of community and this is the first part,” Needham said.

The campus will help ease overcrowding at Tanglewood Elementary. The project will also allow the district to add pre-kindergarten programs to both schools. Currently, Tanglewood doesn’t have a pre-kindergarten program.

A new school community

The estimated $28 million Tanglewood project was part of a record $750 million bond program approved by voters in November 2017. With its passage, Superintendent Kent Scribner promised a “jackrabbit start” to projects in the package, including $581 million in upgrades for 14 neighborhood high schools and about $40 million to relocate three specialized schools.

Connie Smith, principal for Tanglewood Elementary, said families have been involved in the whole process, which helps build community ownership of the new campus.

“We got input from parents from Day One,” Smith said, explaining that there have been numerous meetings with families and neighborhood associations. “There is a lot of transparency.”

Smith said taking an exemplary school community and splitting it into two isn’t an easy task, but families are invested in the new school and some are asking, “What can we do?”

Smith said there is a desire to build another excellent school.

“Collectively, we are going to work as a community to make it as wonderful as it can be,” Smith said.

Transfer policy

The naming comes as talk circulates of open transfers to Tanglewood Elementary by families who are zoned in the new school, but live near Tanglewood. Some families who live walking distance from Tanglewood Elementary have voiced a desire to be able to stay at the school, Needham said.

The boundary for the new school was approved by the school board last September.

Under the approved boundaries, students living south of Bellaire Drive South or west of Hulen Street will attend the new campus. The area north of Bellaire Drive South/Benbrook Boulevard and east of Hulen will remain zoned to Tanglewood Elementary.

Trustee Ann Sutherland, who also represents families attending Tanglewood, recently posted about the issue on Facebook.

“Re the access to the two Tanglewood schools: I was definitely assured that transfers into Tanglewood Elementary by the residents of the Overton Ridge West neighborhood. ‘No boundary changes’ was part of the agreement as these residents will definitely recall. It was a major part of the consensus we built.”

But in a recent email to the Tanglewood school leaders, Sutherland and Needham, the district stressed that boundary zones will be followed.

“I have been asked to share with your school-community that there are no plans for ‘free enrollment’ between Tanglewood Elementary School and the new ‘Tanglewood Relief” campus,’ Superintendent Kent Scribner stated in the email. “The District will follow the boundary plan that was recommended by parents, staff and other stakeholders and was approved by a vote of the FWISD Board of Education on September 25, 2018.”

Fort Worth students can apply to attend campuses outside their designated boundaries through a transfer process, which is largely based on available class space. It gives certain students priority — the highest one being students whose home schools are listed on Texas’ Public Education Grant list.

Schools on the list are low performing schools that must allow students to transfer under state rules.

The second highest transfer priority is given to children who live in the district and are siblings of “a resident student currently enrolled at the requested school.”

Children of district employees who live in the Fort Worth school district get priority next. They are followed by children who live in the district but outside of the attendance area their requested school.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.