Tyler Independent School District held a press conference on Tuesday morning to announce plans for a new high school in the district.
According to Tyler ISD Superintendent Gary Mooring, the district is proposing the A.T. Stewart Academy of Excellence. The school would be added as a third high school and include programs for college readiness, fine arts, science, technology, job readiness, language arts and math. The high school would located on the campus of the current A.T. Stewart Middle School.
The proposal is contingent on a $160.5 million bond passing a vote when it appears on a May 11 ballot.
"We will not close the doors of A.T. Stewart Middle School, and I want to emphasize that has never been part of the board's plan," superintendent Gary Mooring said during Tuesday's pres conference.
The district says the academy would be a non-traditional education system for 21st-century students. Students from across the district would have to apply to attend the high school, which could ultimately have 400-500 students enrolled.
"Traditional high schools work great for some students. But some students really want a different approach and a choice," Mooring said. "We're all about trying to create a 21st century district, and that's what I envision."
"Perhaps some students may be getting lost in the system, lost in the classrooms, but in any one classroom you may have four or five levels of achievement," said Rev. Orenthia Mason, the vice president of the Tyler ISD school board. "We want to reach all of our students, and it's time that we do that."
Tyler ISD plans to take two years to plan the A.T. Stewart Academy of Excellence. It would be added in addition to a career and technology center.
The district says it is important to them to seek community involvement as they create the new high school.
"We're just looking forward to continuing developing relationships with A.T. Stewart community and want to involve them so much in the planning for a campus they're going to be proud in their community in the future," Mooring said in an interview Tuesday.
But "No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!" Coalition member and TISD parent Cedrick Granberry says he is concerned about the district's lack of communication with parents about proposed changes.
"Basically as a community, we get the news second and third hand about implemented changes, and this is something that we really, really have a problem with as parents, as concerned citizens," Granberry said. "We definitely want to pay homage to those that have paved the way and allowed opportunities here at TISD and really give them their due, but we're not doing that when the community and the school district are at odds about things."
If the bond passes, the district anticipates all new facilities - the A.T. Stewart Academy of Excellence, the proposed Career and Technology Center, the new Boulter and Moore Middle Schools and a brand new middle school in the southwest quadrant of the district, and the renovated campuses of Dixie and Rice Elementary Schools - would open in Fall 2015.
At that time, the district plans for students at Stewart Middle School who live south of Highway 31 would go to the new middle school in the southwest quadrant of the district and for Stewart Middle School students who live north of Highway 31 to be moved to Boulter Middle School.
"We are currently in the process of looking at proposed boundary lines," Mooring said during the conference. "However, the district is under a desegregation order, and cannot redraw the boundary lines without approval from the Department of Justice. The courts will consider changes to our boundary lines if a bond is passed."
District officials said in the press conference that they expect the district's Partnership for Accelerated Education, or PACE, complex to close if the Stewart Academy of Excellence opens.
Mooring also announced that Stewart Middle School will not be used as the district's alternative school. The alternative school will remain at the Plyler Complex.
The district says it will not be amending the $160.5 million bond package on the May 11 ballot. They say that any renovations needed for the current A.T. Stewart Middle School campus would come from funds raised from grants, from previously-passed bond measures and from money saved from paying back debt.
Granberry said that the "No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!" Coalition has had conversations with justice department officials about the possibility of school boundary lines changing if the May bond is approved. The coalition asks anyone who would like to express their concern to the justice department to contact the group by phone at 903-530-1079 or by email.
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