The school district announced on Tuesday plans to open the A.T. Stewart Academy of Excellence at the existing Stewart Middle School site in west Tyler.
This change is contingent upon voters approving the $160.5 million bond proposal in May. The campus would not open until fall 2015.
TISD Superintendent Gary Mooring said the academy would offer a nontraditional educational environment for high school students.
Proposed programs include college readiness, technology, fine arts and job readiness, among others. It would have traditional academic subjects as well.
“Our goal is to design an academy of excellence that challenges our students to academic excellence while upholding the traditions and legacy of Rev. A.T. Stewart Middle School,” Mooring said Tuesday during a news conference announcing the plans.
If Stewart is repurposed, its students likely would be zoned to either the new southwest Tyler middle school or Boulter. Texas Highway 31 West likely would be the dividing line.
However, this is only speculation at this point because the U.S. Department of Justice has to approve any redrawn boundary lines since TISD is under a federal desegregation order.
If the bond passes, the district would enter into a two-year planning process for the school, Mooring said.
During that time, district administrators, board members and others would visit schools and seek input from the community to gather ideas about what could be incorporated into this new school.
Mooring said the district would make it a priority to gain input from the Stewart community through the planning process.
Although the specifics aren’t clear yet, there are some things that are known about the school.
Students would have to apply and be accepted to this campus. Once accepted, the Stewart Academy would be their home school and when they graduate from it, they would receive a diploma from it.
He estimated that as many as 500 students could attend the academy eventually if the district develops the programs. However, it likely would not open with that many students.
The academy will absorb PACE, which is the district’s dropout prevention and recovery program for at-risk high school students.
However, the Plyler Alternative School, TISD’s disciplinary campus, will remain at its existing location on West Glenwood Boulevard.
Mooring said the academy’s student population would be representative of the Robert E. Lee and John Tyler high school campuses with a mix of gifted and talented, college-bound and at-risk students.
Sanders, who is among community members concerned about Stewart Middle School’s future, said he was not ready to comment about the proposal because he and others will share it with a larger group.
He said then the larger community will decide if they support the proposal or not, rather than individual residents speaking about it.
Sanders and seven other community members met for about two hours with Mooring and three board members Tuesday afternoon to discuss the campus’ future.
Sarah Coats, whose son attended Stewart Middle School, participated in the meeting. She said it provided an opportunity to start an open and honest dialogue “which is very important because the community needs to trust the people that we’ve elected to do the best for our students and our community.”
She said when the district first came to the community last month and shared about the Stewart plans, representatives said they were not going to close Stewart. District officials reiterated that Tuesday. But Ms. Coats said the community wants more.
“Our thing is we want it to remain as a middle school, not another school for whatever its purpose was and still bear the Stewart name,” Ms. Coats said. “That’s not what we wanted as a community. We wanted Stewart Middle School to still be there.”
She said district administrators and board members continued to say as they have in the past that nothing is set in stone and they want the dialogue to continue.
“When we left, when we departed, it was on that note that we would continue these dialogues,” she said.