New junior high is funded by the 2019 Bond
This was a little different than an outdoor concert at the Levitt Pavilion.
This outdoor venue featured piles of rubble. And the backdrop for Carter Junior High’s orchestra, band and choir included two huge yellow earth movers. As the student musicians played and sang, the walls of the old Knox Elementary were literally being torn down – almost in concert with the music.
It was the perfect way to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Arlington ISD junior high school that will replace Carter Junior High.
“All I can say is wow,” said Carter principal Elena Lopez as she looked around at the unusual scene. “This is just absolutely incredible. What a wonderful opportunity for our community, for our students and for our teachers.
Arlington ISD interim superintendent Dr. Steven Wurtz helped explain the need for the new school by taking everyone back to 1958 – the year NASA was established and Carter Junior High opened. A lot has changed since then, from space exploration and technology to educational models and the way kids learn.
“Back in 1958, Carter was modern at the time,” Wurtz said. “But as you know, there have been many, many advances since then, and the landscape of education has completely changed.”
Changes in education and technology over the last 65 years aren’t the only reasons why Carter needs to be replaced. Frankly, the building is old, worn out and too costly to maintain. Plus, the site it sits on is undersized, and erosion in the adjacent creek impedes site use. There is no room for a track around the football field or enough parking.
That will all change with the new building. The school will be relocated to the site of the former Knox Elementary, a site that is more centrally located to the Carter student population and large enough to accommodate all program offerings.
The new site is also absorbing the adjacent Wessler Park. Arlington ISD acquired the park from the City of Arlington by giving the city its nearby and now-closed Roark Elementary site. Arlington ISD will demolish the Roark building and then build a new splash pad in the school’s place to replace the one that was at Wessler Park.
While a bigger site will offer a big improvement over the old Carter, it’s the new building that will be the biggest game-changer. Unlike the current Carter, the new school will be state-of-the-art, high-tech and full of learning spaces designed to help students thrive and succeed in the 21st century.
“I am eager to see the impact that the new school will have, not only academically, but the confidence and pride that it will create among our students, staff, families and community,” Lopez said.
The new building will be approximately 155,000 square feet and will range in height from the three-story classroom blocks on the north to a single-story administration office space and a one-and-a-half-floor media center. The new facility will include 48 classroom spaces, including CTE classrooms, break-out and collaboration spaces, teacher workrooms and offices. There will be performing arts classrooms for band, orchestra, drama, choir and art, along with rooms for SPED programs, science labs and a storm shelter. Outdoor spaces include a new entry plaza and canopy, a regulation synthetic turf football field with a four-lane track, bleachers, press box, concessions and restrooms.
But not everything will be new.
“We have created incredible memories, established meaningful relationships and built a culture of families and love at Carter Junior High,” Lopez said. “We will take this with us into our new school.”
Those intangibles that Carter will take with them to the new facility are what will bring the new junior high to life.
“While the building will be new, the thing that will remain is the love that the community has and the commitment they show to the students who will learn here,” Wurtz said. “That commitment combined with modern educational spaces is a recipe for an inspiring education that propels our students into a journey that is lifelong.”
The future junior high is the fourth of four school replacements funded by the 2019 Bond program. The first three are all open. Thornton and Berry elementary schools opened in August at the beginning of this school year, and Webb Elementary opened in January.
“This is all about students,” said Arlington ISD board president Melody Fowler. “It’s all about giving them every opportunity to succeed. And that includes the right spaces. Facilities matter. School buildings purposefully designed to inspire students and equip them to thrive in the 21st century are incredibly important to achieving the outcomes we all want for students.”