Sunday, May 26, 2024

Azle Junior High: a snapshot from the ‘50s

Staff discusses the history of Azle Junior High, current needs, bond election

Posted

AZLE — It’s always 2:45 p.m. at Azle Junior High School — at least that’s what its stuck clocks would have you believe.

The building on School Street was constructed in 1953, just seven years after the founding of Azle Independent School District and served as its high school until 1970, when the current high school on Boyd Road was completed. While the building contains over half a century of Azle history, today the original structure struggles to meet the needs of the nearly 700 students and staff that walk its halls.

“We’ve just outgrown it,” school secretary Lindsay Smith said “It hasn’t changed a whole lot. All the (cafeteria) windows are original with a handle crank. The air conditioners are always failing; we have power issues sometimes. The modern Wi-Fi technology, we’ve had to adapt, it doesn’t work as cohesively here as it does in the newer campuses.”

The cafeteria, originally built when the city of Azle was home to fewer than 3,000 people, is maxed out by the 200 students who eat at each of the school’s three lunch periods. Without a stage or tennis courts, junior high students involved in a number of different extracurriculars find themselves having to utilize the space and resources at Azle High School, competing for what little unused time remains. Classrooms originally built for 10 to 15 students are now regularly forced to hold 25 or more. Hallway lockers remain unused partially because of an already overcrowded passing period with limited space. Brick bathrooms from the 1950s don’t have capacity for students or staff, so long lines often form down the hallway. The cheerleaders’ locker room, a good location for anyone looking to recreate a scene from Shawshank Redemption, suffers from collapsing mirrors and a water bug infestation due to high humidity. The list of problems described by school staff goes on.

New is a relative term at this campus, with some of the last major renovations and expansions having occurred while secretary Smith was a student in the 80s and 90s. Among these newer additions are science labs and outdoor portable-type buildings which now serve as a computer lab, Mr. Arriaga’s Spanish class, and soon an esports team.

“It’s hard with 30 kids in a lab,” science teacher Amanda Russ said. “I have nine tables and for my biggest class we have to do three per table. The science labs are our largest classrooms and they’re about the same size as the elementary normal classrooms in the newer buildings.”

The long trek for students coming from athletics to some of these disconnected buildings causes some students to leave their backpacks on the other side of campus to save time and can present challenges for some. Smith described the facilities as, “ADA acceptable but really not user-friendly.”

“It could be so much better,” Smith said.

Band director Kevin Chapman’s domain is located on the periphery of the main building; it’s where he leads a band period packed with 86 students.

“Every chair is full,” Chapman said. “There’s not room to get instruments out. We have to have some kids leave their backpacks in the choir room, some keep theirs with them, some use cubbies and some line the wall. We need a bigger facility.”

Chapman said a larger modern band hall, like the ones found in other campuses throughout the district would make his classes easier to manage, would be better for teaching and the students’ learning process.

While circumstances have not been ideal for years, hardworking and resourceful staff have managed to work with what they’ve got.

“Our custodial group is awesome,” Smith said. “They’ve helped preserve this building. If we had somebody that didn’t take care of it, it’d be so much worse.”

A possible answer

There is a potential solution on the horizon for the problems presented by Azle Junior High’s ever-aging facilities and a rapidly growing population. On Nov. 7, voters will be presented with the opportunity to vote on a bond proposal that addresses Azle Junior High staffs’ concerns — and much more —while dropping the property tax rate 8 cents from last year’s tax rate.

Proposition A allocates $151,500,000 to construction of a replacement Azle Junior High on the location of the existing campus, along with other district-wide needs. The proposed three-story facility will be built with an additional 200 sixth-grade students in mind and will include classrooms that meet TEA size requirements. The proposed structure will allow for more opportunities for advanced academics and extracurriculars, and will include a stage, storm shelter, larger science labs and much more all contained under one roof.

With no concurrent major elections taking place and worries about low voter turnout abounding, district staff encourage those who live within the boundaries of the Azle ISD to exercise their right to weigh in on this major decision.

To see complete details about the Azle ISD bond proposal, go to: https://www.azleisd.net/page/2023-bond.

tarrant county voting

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 23 and runs through Friday, Nov. 3. In Tarrant County, early voting hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 23-27; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 30-31; and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 1-3.

Tarrant County residents voting in the Azle ISD bond election can vote early at the Azle ISD Instructional Support Center at 483 Sandy Beach Road, Suite C in Azle, or at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office North Patrol Division located at 6651 Lake Worth Blvd. in Lake Worth, among other locations.

Election day is Nov. 7 with voting from from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tarrant County residents voting in the Azle ISD bond election will vote at the Azle ISD Instructional Support Center, The Edge Church at 1313 Southeast Parkway, or at Pelican Bay City Hall, 1300 Pelican Circle in Pelican Bay.

For complete election information for Tarrant County, please go to: https://www.tarrantcountytx.gov/en/elections/current-election-information.html

parker county voting

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 23 and runs through Friday, Nov. 3. Early voting hours in Parker County are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 23-27; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 30-Nov. 1; and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 2-3.

Residents of Parker County can vote in the Community Room at Azle City Hall, 505 W. Main, Azle, among other locations.

Parker County residents can vote at Azle City Hall or at Silver Creek United Methodist Church at 2200 Church Rd., Azle, among other locations.

To see complete election information for Parker County, point your browser to: https://www.parkercountytx.com/118/Elections

wise county voting

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 23 and runs through Friday, Nov. 3. In Wise County, early voting hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 23-27; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 30-Nov. 1; and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 2-3.

Wise County resident voting in the Azle ISD bond election can vote at the Boyd Community Center, 420 E. Morton St. in Boyd, among other locations.

Election Day voting is from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Wise County residents voting in the Azle ISD bond election may vote at the Boyd Community Center.

Complete election information for Wise County can be found at: https://www.co.wise.tx.us/315/Elections.

zach freeman

azlereporter@tricountyreporter.com