Fort Worth resident Alyssa Martinez could have dropped three of her kids off at Rolling Hills Elementary School in less than a minute. 

Instead, the school’s delayed opening has greatly inconvenienced Martinez. 

Every morning, she drops off two children at Westpark Elementary, which is three to five minutes away from home. She drives 10 to 15 more minutes to drop her pre-K student at Benbrook Elementary. Then, it’s another 10 minutes to drop off her middle schooler at Benbrook Middle-High. 

“I’ve got a better routine down now,” Martinez said. “But in the beginning, it was a little hectic, and I still have some (hard) days, especially when the weather’s (rainy).”

Rolling Hills Elementary School, the first project in Fort Worth ISD’s $1.2 billion bond from 2021, was slated to open at the start of the 2023-24 academic year at the corner of Jerry Dunn Parkway and Green Links Drive. However, pandemic-induced supply chain delays for structural steel and water supply issues postponed the opening, district officials said. 

Construction on the $58.7 million school should be completed before September ends, and classes in Rolling Hills Elementary are expected to begin in October, said Mike Naughton, executive director of facilities planning and operations. Naughton did not have an exact date for when the school will open.

Delayed opening 

In 2021, the school board tapped Procedeo, a Fort Worth-based construction management company, to manage the bond. 

Procedeo was the only firm that applied, causing some trustees to question why the administration was not seeking additional bids for a bond manager. 

Administrators declined to seek more applicants because they wanted to get things moving “as quickly as possible.”

The district told parents in March that the school’s opening would be delayed because of the steel shortage, said trustee Michael Ryan, who represents Benbrook on the school board.

Around that time, the district received the steel but then ran into problems with the water supply.

Once completed, the two-story, 120,000-square-foot Rolling Hills will be one of the biggest elementary schools in Fort Worth ISD, Naughton said. While the school will open with about 400 students, the campus can accommodate about 1,000.

However, the building’s size requires more water pressure than other schools to support plumbing and the sprinkler system, further affecting completion day, he said. They also had to wait for glass and windows on order, but those have since arrived and are being installed. 

Windows are still being placed Sept. 18, 2023, at the front entrance of Fort Worth ISD’s Rolling Hills Elementary School in Benbrook. (Dang Le | Fort Worth Report)

Naughton said he hasn’t directly heard any complaints from parents about the delayed opening, but he understands if people are not thrilled that the project is behind schedule. 

“We always wanted to get students moved in for the beginning of the school year,” he said. 

Sandra Vargas, president of the Rolling Hills PTA, said combining Westpark and Rolling Hills classes initially confused some parents. But the overall sentiment is that they are happy to hold off if the students are safe. 

“We’d rather it be completed and safe than rush the building process and move in when it isn’t quite ready,” Vargas said. 

Confusion for parents

Vargas, who praised the school’s communication about the delayed opening, said she hasn’t been inconvenienced in dropping off her two children. However, even as PTA president, she is not alone in experiencing difficulty in separating events for each school. 

Once, she overheard a Westpark student expressing confusion about a grandparents' appreciation event for Rolling Hills students. 

“I heard some students say, ‘Wait, I didn't bring my grandfather,’ but they belonged to the other school — not the school hosting (the event) that day,” she said. 

A look at the front of Fort Worth ISD’s Rolling Hills Elementary School on Sept. 18, 2023, in Benbrook. (Dang Le | Fort Worth Report)

And because the schools share offices, parents have to clarify whether their business is with Rolling Hills or Westpark, Martinez said. 

“It’s just some confusion about who you talk to if you go in there and you don’t share who’s who,” she said. 

Hope for new campus

Ryan said Rolling Hills will have ballistic film up to at least 6 feet on glass doors and windows to withstand shootings. 

“We had to get that ready to go. That was a change that came in to keep our kids safe,” he said. 

A slide that lands in the lower-level library and media center is sparking interest. The slide is the No. 1 thing parents are discussing because they haven’t heard of a school having one inside before, Vargas said. 

A rendering shows a slide landing in the lower-level library and media center at Fort Worth ISD’s Rolling Hills Elementary School. (Courtesy photo | Fort Worth ISD)

Ryan remembered that when the slide was first introduced to students and parents — everybody “absolutely lit up.” 

“I’m waiting to see who actually goes down the slide first. Maybe I’ll auction (the first slide) off to raise some funds for the school,” he said, jokingly. 

But Martinez, who drives by the school every day, primarily cares about how nice and spacious the campus is. She won’t have to stop on the side of the road to drop her kids off. 

And soon, she won't drive her youngest children to Rolling Hills at all. In the future, she plans to let them walk to school with their friends — eliminating her commute.

Editor's Note: The story was updated Sept. 20, 2023, to add the school's location.

Dang Le is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at 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.

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Dang Le is a reporting fellow. He can be reached at Le has a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. He was the editor-in-chief at The Shorthorn, UTA’s...