The Fort Worth Independent School District continues to look for ways to improve student test scores and success after school. Over the last year FWISD staff has looked at opening up an all boys school, called the Young Men's Leadership Academy (YMLA).
The conversation started in 2010, but kicked of in 2011 with a steering committee. After a recent presentation to the FWISD School Board, officials are getting some final input from the public before going for a final vote on the location of the academy.
The location is causing more controversy than the school itself. The district plans to consolidate Dunbar Sixth Grade Middle School to Dunbar Middle School a few blocks away. Both schools in the Stop Six Neighborhood presently have a student population around half the schools' capacities.
"We're looking at two campuses that are under capacity, so it just makes good fiscal sense to then use your existing facilities," said Robert Ray, FWISD Chief of Schools who is involved in the academy's development.
But parents at Dunbar Sixth Grade like the school the way it is and many don't want to see the change.
"Find a site, a different site and build them a school if that's what they want for an all-boys academy," said Penny Kelly. "But you know, leave this school alone."
"We're giving you (the district) a firm no," said parent Hazel James. "Leave Dunbar 6th Grade center the way it is."
James says academics are good at Dunbar Sixth and that alone should be a reason to keep things from changing.
"We're happy with it (Dunbar Sixth)," James said. "The grades are great, the kids are great, they have the best attendance."
James also highlights that the school hasn't been found academically failing. She is concerned that the school will eventually close down. While the district says that will not happen, James fears that if the academy outgrows the facility it will.
But all parents agree having an all-boys school in the district is an acceptable idea. Just last year the district opened the Young Women's Leadership Academy and say it is already finding success, just like similar single gender only schools across the nation.
"The preliminary results in other school districts that have tried this around the county have been very positive," said Ray. "So, we feel this will be another choice."
The YMLA will serve as one of the districts' Schools of Choice program where students can pick which high school they attend. YMLA will have no significant requirements for student admission, other than they must be eligible to move into 6th or 7th grade. Each successive year grades will be added until a 12th grade graduation in 2018.
FWISD held public forum meetings to discuss the planned move this week and the board should vote on the addition of YMLA and Dunbar Sixth Grade move on the 25th.