Aulstin Gardiner and his wife haven’t decided what they will name their twin boys when they are born in the coming weeks. One thing they do know is that their children will attend Eastern Hills Elementary.

Their twins will be among the first classes to attend the new Eastern Hills Elementary. The campus, built in 1958, is set to be replaced with a modern campus that is expected to hold about 1,000 students.

Tens of millions of dollars will flow into the Stop Six, Eastern Hills and South Hills communities to replace three elementary schools as part of the district’s $1.2 billion bond program.  These areas of Fort Worth ISD have not seen new elementary campuses in decades, according to district officials. The new schools will come with a cost: the likely consolidation of some nearby elementary schools and repurposing of those campuses.

Maudrie W. Walton, Eastern Hills and Worth Heights elementary schools will be replaced. All three schools were built in the mid- to late-1950s.  Each new school is expected to cost more than $44.7 million.

Eastern Hills Elementary is located at 5917 Shelton St. in Fort Worth. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

Gardiner is excited for the new Eastern Hills Elementary. He can’t wait to see his twins exploring the school’s library and learning to love reading. Still, he has concerns about the size of the school and whether it will mean larger class sizes.

“With teachers shedding out of this profession and becoming harder and harder to recruit, it worries me about what classroom size is going to look like for an elementary school that’s supposed to be housing essentially a thousand students,” Gardiner said.

Superintendent Kent Scribner sees the investments as leveling the playing field between more urban and suburban parts of the district. Good school buildings help students feel supported and valued — and could improve their performance in school, he said.

“We want to make sure these schools have high-quality, culturally responsive curriculum, rigorous instruction and athletics and fine arts support. You can’t do that without a sufficient school facility, and that they are safe and welcoming campuses,” Scribner told parents at a meeting inside Dunbar High School.

The new schools will be similar to Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary and Overton Park Elementary. Both were built to be modern campuses with large open community spaces and plenty of natural light. Another new elementary school also will take cues from the district’s recent campuses.

Maudrie M. Walton Elementary is located at 5816 Rickenbacker Place in Fort Worth. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

District officials anticipate the new Eastern Hills Elementary to open in the summer of 2026, Walton Elementary in the winter of 2026 and Worth Heights Elementary in summer of 2027.

“We will be building much larger schools in an effort to be efficient, but also to provide as many students as possible with state-of-the-art technology and buildings,” Scribner said.

Parent Tramisha Hicks has a fifth- and second-grader attending Eastern Hills Elementary. Her students won’t be at the school when the replacement campus is completed. However, a more modern school is needed, she said. 

As a child, Hicks attended Eastern Hills Elementary. The campus has seen some improvements, but for the most part the school has stayed the same since she was an elementary student in the 1990s. Hicks graduated from Fort Worth ISD in 2000.

The Eastern Hills community deserves this new campus, Hicks said.

“It’ll make them feel like people care, and that they do care about the kids’ education. It may make the kids feel like they are thought about,” Hicks said. “I think it’ll be a benefit for the kids and for the teachers.”

The district expects to build the new campuses on the school property. Administrators picked these areas because of housing trends, enrollment figures, age and condition of the buildings, and the size of the campus grounds.

District officials plan to work with parents and community members to decide how to best fold the existing buildings into the replacement campuses. 

Scribner does not expect construction to interrupt classes on the campuses. At Eastern Hills Elementary, the new campus will be built on the nearly 49 acres of land on which the existing school sits. Worth Heights Elementary sits on 7.2 acres, and Walton Elementary is on 7.9 acres.

Deputy Superintendent Karen Molinar expects the new campuses to each have a capacity of 1,000 students. All three elementary schools are nowhere near their capacities, according to district enrollment figures. Shifting students likely will impact surrounding schools’ enrollments.

Molinar emphasized that the district plans to move students from smaller schools to the larger, new campuses. Other campuses, especially those with low enrollments, likely will be folded into the campus, she said. It does not make financial sense to keep a school open with just a couple hundred students when they could attend a new campus, Molinar said.

Any changes will affect the pyramid in which the school is located. Fort Worth ISD groups elementary and middle schools based on which high school those students will eventually attend. The Eastern Hills pyramid has nine elementary schools. The South Hills pyramid has six elementary schools. And the Dunbar pyramid has five elementary schools.

Officials have not decided which campuses could close. Scribner stressed the next superintendent, their administration and these communities will make those decisions together. 

Over the next few years, administrators plan to work with residents in the three affected communities to determine the ripple effects of the new campuses. The process will be the same for all three neighborhoods. District officials will have meetings with parents inside the campuses and determine the best path forward. 

Gardiner, the soon-to-be father, isn’t worried about Eastern Hills Elementary becoming a sort of hub for the area’s students. It all comes down to how many students will be in a single classroom.

“Is my child going to get the right attention, or are they going to be 35 kids to a staff member or is there going to be 25? There’s a huge difference in the kind of attention one can get,” Gardiner said.

Worth Heights Elementary is located at 519 E. Butler St. in Fort Worth. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

Trustee Camile Rodriguez expressed concern about whether administrators are accounting for Fort Worth ISD’s enrollment decline while planning the new elementary schools. Rodriguez has spoken out in the past on this topic. When the school board called for the 2021 bond election, she opposed the proposed $1.5 billion because it failed to consider the district’s enrollment drops. 

“How are we going to adjust the capacities of the schools?” Rodriguez asked.

Enrollment trends within each of the three communities show administrators could have several options for which schools to consider consolidating. 

In the Dunbar pyramid in Stop Six, none of the campuses is near its capacity. Walton Elementary’s enrollment this year was 334 students — 63% of its capacity. With administrators planning to boost the new Walton Elementary’s capacity to 1,000 students, two other schools in this community could be folded into the campus.

In the Eastern Hills pyramid, fewer campuses could be included into the planned new replacement elementary. Eastern Hills Elementary had 503 students this year. One or two more schools could be incorporated into the new Eastern Hills Elementary, depending on enrollment over the next four years.

The South Hills pyramid could prove to be tricky for administrators to decide. The lowest enrollment of the six campuses in this area is Seminary Elementary, which has 400 students. The campus also has the smallest capacity at 548 students. Because Worth Heights has 504 students, the new campus could fit only one additional school’s worth of students.

All of this means Fort Worth ISD likely will have to redraw the boundaries that determine where students go to school.

If schools are closed, those campuses will not sit empty. Parents and other residents will voice what they think as the best use for the facility for their community. The school board and next administration could decide to put early childhood centers, family resource centers or even house support staff in those buildings instead of at the central office.

Those additions could be positive for the surrounding community. Board President Tobi Jackson warned school shutters, even just the consideration, are sensitive topics and must be treated as such. However, the new campuses are at least four years away. Jackson sees that as a boon for the district to ensure a smooth transition to the new campus.

“People’s hearts are in schools, and they are the core of the community,” she said.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.