Board seems right on arts, science academies

It looks like the historic I.M. Terrell High School building just east of downtown is about to experience a cultural and educational renaissance.

The school’s roots date to 1882 and Fort Worth’s first public school for African-Americans.

If, as expected, Fort Worth school trustees vote approval Tuesday night, the once segregated Terrell campus will become home to two new premier high schools: the Visual and Performing Arts Academy and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy.

The school board’s decision, coming after a favorable feasibility study presented during a workshop Wednesday night, will be made for all the right reasons — it’s the most economical site, most centrally located and it preserves an important part of the storied heritage of the school district, particularly for the African-American community.

Considering that the construction cost estimates have risen sharply for projects in the 2013 bond issue, of which the two schools are a part, the economics have to work.

The study shows renovation and new construction costs at Terrell, plus $10 million to relocate elementary students now attending classes there, would be $68.4 million, compared with $77.3 million on school property at Farrington Field and $87.8 million for a location at Lowery Road Elementary.

The amount allotted for the academies in the $490 million bond issue was $73.3 million, meaning the Terrell site would come in almost $5 million under budget.

Clearly, the economics work, and the board should move forward with this plan. The study says work would be completed by the fall semester of 2017.

The improved campus would include a new 900-seat, two-to-three-story performance hall, as well as piano labs, rehearsal studio and scene shops for the arts; science labs, and mechanical and electrical engineering facilities for STEM.

During the workshop, no trustees voiced opposition to the newest plan, Star-Telegram education writer Yamil Berard reported. That doesn’t mean every board member is fully behind it, as some had favored other alternatives.

It would be good if the board could accept this proposal unanimously.