As architects and community members come together to build a new school in Uvalde, they are grappling with a central question: How can they build a school that makes children feel safe, keeps them safe and doesn’t disrupt learning? 

It’s possible they found the answer, with help from the Panther City.

At a recent school board meeting in Uvalde, trustees approved the design for a new elementary school after shutting down Robb Elementary following the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. 

The design? Trauma-informed and from a Fort Worth architect. The funds? Also largely from Fort Worth so far.

Fort Worth philanthropic organizations have raised over $3 million for the school district to build a new elementary school for students. Huckabee architecture firm will build the school.

Want to donate?

Visit this website to donate to efforts to build a new school in Uvalde: https://uvaldecisdmovingforward.org/ 

Foundations like the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and the North Texas Community Foundation have been raising funds for the project. Outgoing state Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth, believes her city can come together to meet statewide needs. Powell said she’s been involved in helping raise funds from the beginning and spoke with Huckabee about building the school. 

Rainwater President Jeremy Smith said the foundation’s mission is to help children. Usually that primarily means children in North Texas, but the organization wanted to help Uvalde.

The Uvalde tragedy also has happened in other places across the state, Powell said. But this shooting, happening in a rural community, meant there was a greater need for others to help with resources to rebuild the school.

“I just knew that the compassion here in North Texas would set the stage for us to be able to do this all over the state of Texas,” Powell said. “I think we all sort of own the grief. We all collectively feel the trauma that the community goes through during an episode like this.”

Building a school can be a long process. It typically requires a bond election and can take years. Uvalde needed more immediate relief, which is what these fundraising efforts can provide, Powell said.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Uvalde CISD Moving Forward Foundation, said the school is mostly Texas-funded and Texas-built, although others outside the state also have donated.

At a recent board meeting, Uvalde trustees approved the conceptual design. The design is created from community input and people who work in the district. Although Huckabee will build the school, Miller said, the community can still feel ownership of it with design input.

A copy of the conceptual site design plan presented to the Uvalde CISD school board. (Courtesy photo | Tim Miller)

Empathy and compassion had a major role in the design concept, Powell said. The team at Huckabee includes Kerri Brady, who does trauma-informed work for the firm, Powell said. 

The trauma-informed aspect shows itself in many ways, Miller said, starting with the entrance of the building. There will be high safety and security measures that don’t stand out, he said. This allows students and the community to feel safe without disrupting learning.

People on the committee recently got to visit some schools in other areas of Texas recently built with these concepts so they can see and decide what they want at the campus in Uvalde, Miller said.

One concern Smith, of the Rainwater Foundation, had from the outset was how involved the community in Uvalde would be in the project. He wanted to make sure there was a balance of getting residents’ input for the school, but also giving them space and time to heal. Huckabee has handled that balance well, he said.

“They’ve got people on the ground, who have trauma-informed experiences and local ties to the community,” Smith said. “And that’s just made all the difference in the world and will make all the difference, I think, in terms of helping a community that is very much in the middle of the grieving process figure out the type of facility that they need for their children going forward.”

Smith thinks Fort Worth was situated to take the lead in fundraising for a few reasons, starting with leadership in the city. Powell’s work on this effort has moved it forward, he said, and so did Chris Huckabee’s. 

“And then it is Fort Worth, right?” he said. “I think we have a reputation for pulling together and making things happen.”

North Texas aims to raise about $10 million for the school. After meeting with some partners in Dallas, Powell said she feels confident in meeting that goal.

From there, foundations in San Antonio, Houston and Austin can use the model set by North Texas to raise funds, too, she said. 

Miller said the school should break ground this summer and he expects construction to take about 15 months to complete.  

When it is built, I think it will go a long way to healing the community,” Miller said, “and then serve as a point of healing going forward.”

Disclaimer: Rainwater Charitable Foundation and North Texas Community Foundation are financial supporters of the Fort Worth Report. 

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at kristen.barton@fortworthreport.org. 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. 

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Kristen BartonEducation Reporter

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...