Fort Worth ISD finds home for STEM Academy, delays arts facility vote

Fort Worth school board members voted 7-2 to open the STEM Academy on the site of the former Leonard Sixth Grade Center, but delayed a decision on where to locate the Viosual and Performing Arts school.

 The school, now known as the Middle Level Learning Center, previously housed the Leonard 6th Grade Center, is located at 4921 Benbrook Highway and is 65,000 square feet.

“This decision will allow us to save a substantial amount of construction money while still delivering on the promise of a new Gold Seal School of Choice,” said Interim Superintendent Patricia Linares.

The STEM Academy, which will eventually be a grade 6-12 school, is expected to open in the fall of 2015. The approximately 50 students now attending Middle will be relocated to the Metro Opportunity campus.

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In a workshop earlier in the month board members received reports from District staff and community advisors that rising construction costs will continue for the foreseeable future. As a result the District decided to use an underused existing structure rather than build a new school for its newest Gold Seal School of Choice.

“Frankly, the economy is getting better and more construction projects are underway,” said Board President Norman Robbins. “As a result, contractors are able to be more selective in the projects they choose to bid for and the price they want to charge. That will make our work more challenging going forward.”

Voters overwhelmingly approved the three propositions in the 2013 $489 million bond issue last November. Work began immediately but because of the escalating costs some projects may require deferral, according to the district.

Request for Proposals for the project will start soon, if they are not out already, according to the spokesman. The STEM Academy and the Visual and Performing Arts Center were $73.3 million of the bond proposals. – Robert Francis