Fort Worth ISD board approves contract to start closure of Forest Oak Sixth Grade

dfwnewsa | March 31, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Fort Worth ISD board approves contract to start closure of Forest Oak Sixth Grade

A sign at Fort Worth ISD’s Leadership Academy at Forest Oak Sixth Grade, 4801 Eastline Drive, Fort Worth, tells families Saturday school times and dates students are off school. The district is consolidating Forest Oak Sixth Grade into Leadership Academy at Forest Oak Middle School starting in the 2024-25 academic year. (Matthew Sgroi | Fort Worth Report)
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Facing a $40 million budget shortfall, decreasing enrollment and low student performance, Fort Worth ISD declared last week its intention to close a second school beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

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During a March 26 board meeting, Fort Worth ISD trustees approved a contract to relocate students from Leadership Academy at Forest Oak Sixth Grade to Leadership Academy at Forest Oak Middle School for the 2024-25 school year, effectively closing Forest Oak Sixth Grade’s campus.

This decision comes three weeks after the district announced the closure of the Wedgwood Sixth Grade campus.

The contract, which will cost the district no more than $3.7 million, is funded through the voter-approved $1.2 billion bond package passed in 2021. During the 2022-23 school year, Fort Worth ISD spent $4 million to run Forest Oak Sixth Grade. 

“The $3.7 million budget is to increase capacity at Forest Oak to continue to serve students without interruption,” the district said in a statement to the Fort Worth Report.

Like the Wedgwood closure, parents and students weren’t notified until days before the announcement, Trenace Dorsey-Hollins, executive director of Parent Shield Fort Worth, told trustees during the March 26 meeting.

Parents wished they were notified long before Tuesday, she said. Discussions surrounding the future of sixth grade centers began back in 2018, according to the district.

The campus’ closure was first initiated in October 2023, when Fort Worth ISD sent a request to the Texas Education Agency to close the campus, according to the TEA.

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On Oct. 20, 2023, the TEA reviewed the district’s closure plan and made Forest Oak Sixth Grade “obsolete.” Students were to remain on campus for the remainder of the 2023-24 school year but, as of that date, all students attending the sixth grade campus were classified by TEA as Forest Oak Middle School students. 

In Fort Worth ISD’s initial statement and in a public-facing online discussion, the district did not say it was the entity initiating the closure.

“TEA took action to consolidate the LAN Forest Oaks campuses under one campus number in the fall of 2023,” the district said.

Action was taken on the campus only after Fort Worth ISD sent the request, according to the TEA.

Fort Worth ISD requested closure of the campus as Forest Oak Sixth Grade was in its fourth year of failing to meet state requirements, the district said in a statement to the Fort Worth Report. 

“Fort Worth ISD took a proactive approach to consolidate to meet TEA requirements,” the district said. 

Forest Oak Sixth Grade hasn’t met state accountability requirements since the 2014-15 school year, when it was called Glencrest Sixth Grade School. The TEA didn’t report campus ratings for 2020 and 2021. Ratings for 2022-23 are delayed because of a lawsuit.

The campus hit its academic low in 2017, when 18% of students met grade level standards in all subjects. In the 2022-23 school year, 29% of students met grade level compared to 40% of sixth graders across the district.  

While declining student achievement was an impetus to closure discussions before 2021, so was the district’s $1.2 billion bond program, the district said in a statement.

The 2021 bond called for renovations to Forest Oak Middle School and trustees had conversations then about consolidating students into the renovated building.

With a budget of $54.6 million, Forest Oak Middle School will receive major interior renovations throughout the campus and is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Forest Oak Middle School’s current campus can hold up to 889 students. During the 2022-23 school year, 877 students were enrolled. That means the school was about 98.7% full. During the 2022-23 school year, Forest Oak Sixth Grade enrolled 352 students. 

After the announcement of the Wedgwood Sixth Grade closure, nearby neighborhood associations were concerned about the building’s future now that it would be empty and shuttered.

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For the Glencrest neighborhood, where Forest Oak Sixth Grade is located, trustee Wallace Bridges said residents shouldn’t worry. His district covers the Forest Oak Sixth Grade and Middle School campuses.

“There’s a lot of entities that do work within the community. My hope is that we are able to plug one of those into the community, that there’s not just a blank building,” Bridges said.

Fort Worth ISD operates one other sixth grade campus: McLean Sixth Grade in Westcliff. The district’s 2021 bond calls for renovations to McLean Middle School worth up to $46.5 million.

The district recently announced that trustees will host community meetings at six middle schools impacted by the bond program.

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Community meeting dates and locations:

McLean Middle School

6:30 p.m., April 3, 3816 Stadium Dr.

Kirkpatrick Middle School

6:30 p.m., April 8, 3201 Refugio Ave.

Morningside Middle School

6:00 p.m., April 11, 2751 Mississippi Ave.

William James Middle School

6:30 p.m., April 17, 1101 Nashville Ave.

Daggett Middle School

6:00 p.m., April 18, 1108 Carlock St.

J.P. Elder Middle School

6:00 p.m., April 22, 709 NW 21st St.

“The trustees are engaging with parents and staff to receive their feedback before making final decisions on how the bond program will be utilized,” the district announced in a statement.

Matthew Sgroi is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at matthew.sgroi@fortworthreport.org or @MatthewSgroi1. 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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