Tanglewood Elementary plans for the future

Tanglewood Elementary was built in 1960 for 594 students.

When this school year’s official count was taken in October, 856 students were enrolled. If nothing is done, district official predict that by 2020 more than 1,000 students could be attending one of the most prized elementary schools.

“The student population has grown and continues to grow at Tanglewood,” said Dr. Kent Scribner, Fort Worth school superintendent. “It is a function of the high quality education that is happening at Tanglewood and the fact that parents have been very deliberate about moving into the neighborhood.”

But as the district considers what should be included in its next possible bond issue, solving the crowding is proving complicated. A series of meetings have been held with Tanglewood parents to consider the next steps.

The district wide bond proposal is expected in June. Tanglewood Principal Connie Smith said she is hopeful it will be approved by voters in November.

But some families in Tanglewood are adamant about maintaining the campus, which includes five portable buildings huddled behind the school. They find no appeal in a suggestion to split the attendance zone and build a new school.

Parents don’t want the house they purchased in the Tanglewood neighborhood to end up being within the lines of a different school, said Anne Dar, a mother who attended a recent forum to discuss the school’s future.

But Smith said if a new campus is built, district officials would be careful to make sure it is a Tanglewood-caliber school.

“It’s not a building that drives the campus, it’s what goes on in the building,” Smith said.

SOLUTIONS AND ALTERNATIVES 

Parents recommended an assortment of ideas during the meeting, including having a primary and intermediate Tanglewood campus, building a new elementary school and making Alice Carlson a neighborhood school again.

“There are hundreds of families affected and we want to gather as much information at the front end,” Scribner said. “We have to make sure that we make an informed decision that is first and foremost in the best interest of the students.”

Smith said an effort has already been made to alleviate the affects of the overcrowding. There’s an additional assistant principal and counselor this school year, she said. Smith also expects additional staff and one to two new portables in the fall.

The cafeteria is so congested that students sometimes don’t have time to eat after purchasing their food, Smith added. She said a new checkout line is being added to speed up the process. A new, larger cafeteria is supposed to be done by the middle of next year.

Smith, who is in her 14th year at Tanglewood, said despite the growth, test scores have not dropped, classes still have a 22-1 student-teacher ratio, and the PTA makes sure that each new class has the same materials as the existing classes.

CONSEQUENCES OF OVERCROWDING 

Still, students and parents said they feel the pinch of overcrowding.

PTA President Meredith Hartung said the student demand outstrips the available library lessons, physical education and arts classes. For example, there used to be weekly library lessons, now students have one every 6-7 days. Kindergarten teachers are also having to teach their own P.E. classes to minimize class size for safety reasons, Hartung added.

“Of course, smaller classrooms and the ability for the kids to have art, music and P.E. more is attractive,” Hartung said. “But our community of staff and parents are amazing, and the focus on providing an excellent learning environment is overcoming the overcrowding.”

Smith said she has to be more creative the more classes they schedule in.

“We have made the decision for quality over quantity,” Smith said. “In other words, I am not going to put 44 kids in an art class at once since I have more classes.”

Tanglewood grew 6.9 percent from last year and Smith expects more students next year.

“Fort Worth is growing, it’s not just Tanglewood,” said Smith. “There is a desperate need for us to evolve.”