ISD Axes School Consolidation Plan Despite Falling Enrollment

Fort Worth ISD
Fort Worth ISD | Image by Fort Worth ISD/Facebook

Fort Worth ISD has withdrawn its proposal to close several middle schools following heavy opposition from the community.

Trustees pulled all items related to the district’s consolidation plans, which were announced in May, from a board meeting agenda after hearing from community stakeholders. Instead, the district will move forward with school renovations, including for campuses slated to be closed and consolidated due to flagging enrollment, Trustee Camille Rodriguez said, per the Fort Worth Report.

As covered previously by The Dallas Express, Fort Worth ISD had proposed combining McLean 6th Grade, McLean Middle School, and Daggett Middle School into a single campus, consolidating J.P. Elder and Kirkpatrick Middle Schools, and merging William James and Morningside Middle Schools after the 2027-2028 school year.

Those opposed to the proposal came to the school board meeting on May 28 to voice their concerns.

“I am here because I don’t need the community closing schools,” 50-year-old Fort Worth resident David Martinez told the school board.

Other residents mentioned how the consolidation plans would impact lower-income communities.

“Your proposal to improve operation effectiveness by combining two schools in impoverished neighborhoods may [look] like a practical solution on paper, but the consequences are far-reaching and deeply troubling,” Fort Worth ISD resident Juan Arreguin told the board.

While Fort Worth ISD held meetings across the district to discuss potential school consolidations, Trustee Wallace Bridges and several community members expressed fears that such closures would lead to more student enrollment drops over the next several years.

“Many communities have been left out, for many years, in many of these buildings that have had challenges … there’s a lack of trust there,” Bridges previously said, according to the Fort Worth Report.

Fort Worth ISD had a $1.2 billion bond passed in 2021, with millions in taxpayer money allocated for campus renovations at schools selected for closure.

“If you vote to close Morningside, you are making the decision to put children in this neighborhood on school buses and transport them across the city,” Linda Miller, a longtime resident, said during the May 28 meeting. She claimed this could “jeopardize families and cause hardships.”

Employees like Leo Vaughns Jr., who teaches at Kirkpatrick Middle School, also raised similar concerns.

“Instead of uprooting and consolidating our community, I ask you to please use the money that we have allotted for us to remodel and renovate our school, which would preserve our legacy,” Vaughns Jr. said.

Bridges said he was pleased that the school board listened to the community and canceled its plans.

“I think that we sent the message to the community saying: I see you and I hear you,” Bridges said, per the Fort Worth Report.

Last fall, over four dozen Fort Worth ISD campuses were marked for potential closure after a capacity study found that they were less than 70% occupied. Student enrollment declines have been an issue statewide. For its part, Fort Worth ISD has struggled with poor student achievement outcomes, which may be contributing to the shrinking student body.

According to the latest Texas Education Agency accountability report, in the 2021-2022 school year, Fort Worth ISD saw just 32% of its students score at grade level on the STAAR, and its on-time graduation rate was 85.7%.

Similarly, Dallas ISD saw only 41% of students score at grade level on the STAAR exam that school year, while almost 20% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 did not obtain a diploma within four years.

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