Benbrook campaign for new schools finally paying off

Center, Owen Roever, who is 10, celebrates his last day of the 2014-2015 school year at Westpark Elementary School.
Center, Owen Roever, who is 10, celebrates his last day of the 2014-2015 school year at Westpark Elementary School. Star-Telegram

About two decades ago, then-city councilman Jerry Dittrich led a community-wide campaign for new neighborhood schools.

The goal then was to split off from the Fort Worth school district, because many of its schools were more than 15 miles from the far west side community, said Dittrich, who was elected mayor in 2005 after serving six terms on council.

He said the community learned that splitting was “pretty hard to do.”

But now the campaign for more campuses is finally paying off. The Fort Worth district plans to convert Westpark Elementary School into a larger middle school, then build a replacement elementary school next to it. The new campus is expected to cost about $15.5 milion, officials said.

By the time construction is complete in summer 2017, Benbrook will have three schools — elementary, middle and high school — in one area.

The replacement elementary school is expected to open in August 2016. The middle school conversion, which includes a 25,500-square-foot addition of new science labs, a library and art room, is expected to open August 2017. The cost of the renovations is about $6.9 million, officials said.

In August 2014, the school district opened a new middle-high school, paid for under a $552 million bond program passed by voters in 2007. The campus will become a high school once the elementary and middle schools are open.

“We’ve waited for this school for a long time,” Westpark Elementary School Principal Susan Hill said of the replacement elementary school. “We’re very excited.”

Dittrich said more families are considering a move to Benbrook because of the new schools.

“What I’m hearing and seeing is that a lot of those young families that may have in the past gone to other areas looking for school opportunities for their children are now giving a hard look at Benbrook,” he said.

Owen Roever, 10, who attends Westpark Elementary School, said he is looking forward to attending the converted middle school. Roever will be a fifth-grader in August 2015.

“I will just come back here when I am in middle school,” he explained.

Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705

Twitter: @yberard