News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Then and now: What’s happening with the West Dallas STEM School?

By Michaela Rush, Report for America Corps Member
|

December 21, 2023

West Dallas

Share this Post

Since opening for the 2021 school year, the West Dallas STEM School has balanced four major stakeholders — the West Dallas community, Toyota USA Foundation, Dallas ISD, and SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development — dealing with changing construction timelines, school consolidations and relocations. The school’s mission is to provide a competitive magnet program for West Dallas, but as 2023 comes to a close, residents are looking for information about what the school has accomplished and what’s coming next.  

In addition to funding from the foundation, the program has also received a total of $5 million to date from SMU alumni Carter Creech, as well as contributions totaling $620,000 from Texas Health Resource, Truist, United Way Metro Dallas, and the Constantin Foundation. Now in its third school year, here’s a timeline of the school’s background, current status, and plans for the future.

2017: Dallas ISD consolidates several West Dallas schools “as part of an effort to better support students and staff, bring premiere educational experiences to families in the area, and most effectively use district resources.” The new plan sends Amelia Earhart Learning Center students to Eladio Martinez Elementary School; Carver Learning Center students to C.F. Carr Elementary School; and Dallas Environmental Science Academy (DESA) students, who had been using the former Sequoyah Learning Center campus, which DISD closed in 2011, to the Earhart building.

2018: SMU, Toyota and Dallas ISD partner to create educational experiences that would prepare students for higher education and the workforce. Toyota USA Foundation’s Driving Possibilities campaign makes an initial $2 million investment into SMU’s Simmons School to launch the partnership. Amanda Roark, communications manager at the foundation, says these funds went to Simmons for research and curriculum, to secure key staff members, and provide continued training for teachers.

SMU project manager Karen Pierce says Toyota became interested in creating a model school to train the next generation of workers.

Related Article  Dallas: We need your input on news consumption and local media coverage

“[Toyota] wants to make sure that our pre-K through 12th education is aligned with actual future job growth and industry experts,” Pierce says. “The incorporation of STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] into a student’s education is going to better equip them for those [jobs] at the same time.”

This school model is intended to be replicated through investments by the foundation across the country, and Driving Possibilities executive director Colleen Casey says the model has four goals: creating a hands-on STEM curriculum, providing professional support to teachers, on-campus resources, and connection with off-campus resources. 

Fall 2018: West Dallas seventh- and eighth-graders move to the historic Dr. L.G. Pinkston Sr. High School campus after Dallas ISD closes Thomas Edison Middle School.

Dallas ISD, SMU and Toyota begin to develop curriculum and create a campus design.

June 2020: Dallas ISD hires Marion Jackson as the first principal of the West Dallas STEM school. Jackson says the school aims to set itself apart from other STEM programs by providing non-academic services and resources to students.

“It really helps to create a resource and a hub for West Dallas,” Jackson says. “[We’re] meeting those needs not just academically, but their physical, their emotional and social needs of our students here in West Dallas and the community.”

In addition to the contributions made through investment in the school, Toyota USA Foundation invests about $1.1 million to West Dallas-based programs like the United Way Toyota Drive Grants, the E3 Mentoring program for students at the STEM school and Pinkston, and the West Dallas Circuit program

Resources are provided through partnerships with Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Momentous Institute and Readers 2 Leaders. Families seeking assistance should contact the school’s community liaison, Edgar Sculark, at esculark@dallasisd.org

The school hosts a virtual community meeting discussing building plans and timelines for students shifting to new campuses.

Related Article  3 free WiFi options for Dallas ISD families

August 2020: The school hosts another virtual community meeting to update the construction timeline, discuss temporary facilities for students, and answer community questions.

October 2020: Dallas ISD breaks ground on the new L.G. Pinkston High School at Greenleaf and Bickers, the location of the historical Sequoyah and Carver campuses, which were razed to make way for the new Pinkston campus.

Summer 2021: Toyota USA’s Driving Possibilities invests an additional $3 million into the project, including more curriculum funding, professional development, and community resources. 

June 2021: The STEM school hosts a virtual groundbreaking ceremony for the old Pinkston campus that will be renovated into West Dallas STEM School’s permanent home, a project costing $34 million, provided by Dallas ISD’s 2015 bond

August 2021: The West Dallas STEM school opens in the historical L.G. Pinkston High School campus, beginning with a focus on math and science for 329 seventh and eighth graders enrolled in the traditional junior high program. The plans state that, moving forward, 50 percent of the seats at the school are reserved for West Dallas students, while the other half are open to students who apply from anywhere in Dallas ISD.

January 2022: L.G. Pinkston High School opens its new $94.8 million, 3-story, 226,948-square-ft. building on a 20.79-acre campus, moving 9th through 12th-grade students to Bickers Street.

The new Pinkston High School campus on Bickers Street serves approximately 1,300 students across four grades.

August 2022: Two new multisensory labs, one for elementary and one for middle school, are added to the STEM school campus. The school welcomes pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first graders.

Fall 2023: Dallas ISD changes course, taking 300-plus seventh- and eighth-graders out of the STEM school and creating a new West Dallas Junior High with Laura Guzman as the principal

The STEM school now educates 106 students across prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade and second grade. 

Related Article  West Dallas 1 videos simplify back-to-school safety plans

Nationwide, Toyota USA Foundation launches four more STEM programs, in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Alabama

Though the STEM school partners with local nonprofits, an on-campus resource center is not yet open, as construction continues. 

October 2023: Volunteers from the Young Men’s Service League, Park Cities branch, create a garden learning space, which is now managed by Brother Bill’s Helping Hand.

Fall 2024: The district will move 400-plus sixth- seventh- and eighth-graders from the Dallas Environmental and Science Academy, or DESA, to the old Pinkston campus to be housed with the STEM school.

Currently, the bond website expects the majority of the renovated campus to open in fall 2024, but notes material costs and weather may affect the project end date. 

Fall 2025: A public project update document from May 2023 estimates all renovations to the STEM School campus will be complete by 2025, allowing DESA to potentially add ninth-grade students and eventually expand into a 6th through 12th grade program, with board approval.

Fall 2029: The STEM reaches its trajectory of a pre-kindergarten to eighth grade school by adding one grade level each school year. Jackson says the program ends after middle school to allow students to have options in the type of high school program they enter.

“We wanted to build a strong pipeline of students, so our students would have options once they finished eighth-grade, whether they wanted to enroll in our neighborhood Pinkston High School,” Jackson says, or “other options with choice models or STEM models.”

To stay connected with the West Dallas STEM school, community members can:

  • Follow the school on Facebook or X
  • Get involved with the parent teacher association (PTA), the family engagement leadership team (FELT) or the site-based decision making committee (SBDM) by emailing Edgar Sculark, community liaison, at esculark@dallasisd.org 
  • Attend monthly parent meetings, beginning in January

Share this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *