Fort Worth ISD expects to save more than $7.3 million annually after consolidating, shuffling and closing six campuses.
Superintendent Kent Scribner sees that amount possibly growing in the coming years as district leadership considers selling properties, such as Farrington Field, and combining schools into newer buildings.
The district has repurposed seven facilities, including five schools. Fort Worth ISD also has sold nine properties for a combined $22.1 million. Still, the district has several properties that Scribner described as highly desirable that administrators and the school board could sell in the future.
Each facility change has a domino effect.
For example, the district eliminated Rosemont Sixth Grade Center. Those students were moved into Rosemont Middle School, which previously had only seventh and eighth grade.
The former sixth-grade center then became the home for Applied Learning Academy, allowing that campus to move from a former shopping center off of Camp Bowie Boulevard. Another school, International Newcomer Academy, also was housed in the old store, but was moved to an empty school on 3813 Valentine St.
Now the old department store, 7000 Camp Bowie Blvd., is set to become Fort Worth ISD’s central office. The district’s top brass is currently in its Central Administration building, 100 N. University Drive, which the district sold for almost $5 million in 2020. The district rents the property for more than $600,000 a year.
The district plans to spend $37 million to upgrade the Camp Bowie Boulevard campus into its new administration building. The district will begin moving into the building next summer, Deputy Superintendent Karen Molinar said.
“This is complex. It’s a lot of moving parts,” Scribner said during a recent school board meeting.
Fort Worth ISD recently repurposed seven buildings. Here’s what has changed:
- The former Handley Middle School building is now the home Metro Opportunity School, Middle Level Learning Center, support services, JROTC and after school program.
- MG Ellis Elementary now houses special education, parent partnerships and counseling.
- Rosemont Sixth Grade Center is now Applied Learning Academy.
- The former Middle Level Learning Center is now International Newcomer Academy.
- The Professional Development Center is now the offices of the district’s department for capital improvement and accountability and data quality.
- The former Applied Learning Academy will become the new Central Administration building.
- A renovated facility on Lubbock Avenue now houses the maintenance and technology departments.
Part of why Fort Worth ISD is repurposing campuses is declining enrollment. Since 2016, Fort Worth ISD has lost more than 12,000 students. The superintendent blamed the losses on charter schools, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and demographic shifts.
“This is not new when we talk about enrollment trends. We have seen this before. We’ve had to right size before,” Scribner said.
Scribner’s scheduled final day as superintendent is Aug. 31. He has teed up the likely consolidation of several campuses into three new elementary schools. The new campuses, which will hold up to 1,000 students, are planned to be built in the Stop Six, Eastern Hills and South Hills communities. Schools with low enrollments within those neighborhoods likely will be folded into the new campuses once built. The building could either be repurposed or sold.
The new campuses are at least four years away from opening.
During an Aug. 9 school board meeting, trustee Camille Rodriguez questioned Scribner over financial decisions to repurpose campuses. She wanted to know how much money was used because of the current year’s general budget deficit of $40.3 million.
For the buildings that remained schools, the cost was minimal, Scribner said. He defended the $7 million cost savings, which he said can absorb the costs of school shufflings. No one lost a job because of the shifts, he said.
Responding to Rodriguez’s deficit concerns, Scribner pointed out that the district has had a deficit planned in the budget for the past seven years he has led the district — and five years before he came on board. A deficit is created when a budget calls for more expenditures than revenue. He predicted there would not be a deficit at the end of the current school year.
“If we projected a $30 million deficit, at the end of the year, we have a $44 million fund balance so you’re actually 14 to the good,” Scribner said, using those figures as examples. “Maybe in a year, I’ll come to public comment and sign up with my friends and talk about that new fund balance.”
New central office
Rodriguez pressed Scribner on why central administration needed to move from University Drive to Camp Bowie Boulevard. The 140,000-square-foot building, built in 1962, sits on 12 acres in west Fort Worth. The district purchased it in 1998.
Once renovated, the new building will house fewer employees, but in a better building than the current administration offices. Employees in all fields want fresh, new buildings with plenty of parking, Scribner said.
The number of employees housed in central administration has been cut in half since Scribner’s superintendency started seven years ago. In 2015, about 400 people worked in the central office. Now, it’s 200, Scribner said.
Departments are now scattered throughout the district so that they are closer to schools and students. For example, the former MG Ellis Elementary School is now the offices for the district’s departments of special education, parent partnerships, and counseling.
Rodriguez was not sure if spending tens of millions of dollars in upgrading the Camp Bowie facility would be worth it. She suggested that if the current administration building wasn’t sold, the district could have upgraded that facility.
The trustee also questioned why the future administration building would not be centrally located in the district. The Camp Bowie building will be time-consuming for anyone taking a bus, while residents in the North Side and Stop Six will have to deal with rush hour traffic to make it to school board meetings, Rodriguez said.
“That central office isn’t central for anyone unless you live in Benbrook,” she said.
Fort Worth ISD’s future is looking west, Scribner said. Housing developments in Benbrook, which is part of the district, have brought new residents and students to the area. The district’s next new campus is under construction and will ease overcrowding at Westpark Elementary School. The new campus is expected to open for the 2023-24 school year.
Additionally, the district has four properties in the Benbrook area that could be the sites of future campuses, including a new high school.
Once the district is out of its current administration building, owner FW Westside Reinvestors likely will demolish it and build a mixed-use development that would add property tax revenue to Fort Worth ISD and other taxing entities, Scribner said.
Farrington Field could be another property the district could sell that would add additional property tax revenue, Scribner said. The field could be a spot for a corporate relocation, if prospective buyers work with its historical landmark designation, he said.
Scribner sees more property-tax-revenue-boosting decisions coming soon.
“We certainly need it right now,” Scribner said.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com 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.