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Superintendent: Fort Worth ISD won’t close schools until studies are complete

Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Angélica Ramsey chats with a district employee during a school board meeting on Aug. 22, 2023.
File photo
Fort Worth Report
Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Angélica Ramsey chats with a district employee during a school board meeting on Aug. 22, 2023.

The number of students attending Fort Worth ISD is declining, but the district’s leader does not expect to close any schools for at least a year.

Superintendent Angélica Ramsey recently updated the Fort Worth City Council on the state of her district, the largest of the 12 traditional public school systems serving the municipality.

Ramsey was unequivocal to council members: She has no plans to close schools until the district has done its homework. She is waiting for the completion of a master plan that looks at building conditions across Fort Worth ISD.

“I’d like to state publicly we are nowhere near any of those conversations because we have this master facilities plan that won’t even be done until about December,” Ramsey said. “Until that time, then that next step is, ‘Here are the recommendations from the plan, what next?’”

The administration does not have a list of schools for possible closure, the superintendent said.

“I know I saw a headline this morning, and I clicked on it. ‘Whoa. We’re closing schools? That’s news to me.’ And then I clicked on it, and it was about a district out of state,” she said.

Ramsey told council members her district’s enrollment has been dropping for between 13 to 15 years. Data from the Texas Education Agency shows the district’s enrollment hit a high seven years ago in the 2016-17 school year with 87,233 students. Every year after that, enrollment has declined.

The district has lost nearly 1 in 5 students since 2016-17. The district had 70,675 students in fall 2023.

Fort Worth ISD is among four large school systems in the nation that lost 10% of their enrollment between 2019 and 2022. The others were New York City, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

On average, the district has lost 2,365 students annually starting with the 2017-18 school year. Changing demographics, school choice and mistrust have contributed to Fort Worth ISD’s shrinking enrollment, experts said.

School districts report enrollment to TEA every year.

In September, the Fort Worth ISD school board approved two studies: the building master plan and an examination of enrollment and school capacity.

A district news release at the time called trustees’ decisions “groundbreaking.”

“Despite a decline in enrollment, the district has not proportionally reduced the number of schools it operates,” the district stated. “This has led to underutilized facilities and smaller student populations in some schools, resulting in higher operational costs and fewer academic offerings.”

Fort Worth ISD has 140 campuses. The Frisco and Conroe school districts have similar enrollments to Fort Worth ISD with fewer campuses:

  • Frisco ISD has 77 campuses for 66,916 students. 
  • Conroe ISD has 68 campuses for 70,783 students.
  • Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, the third-largest district in Texas, has 91 campuses for 118,010 students.

Mayor Mattie Parker asked Ramsey to clarify the study the school board approved.
“For transparency, our board — the same evening that they approved the contract for the master facilities plan — they approved a resolution because we wanted to be very clear, open and transparent with the entire community with all of the aspects that we were looking at,” Ramsey told the mayor. “So we're looking at preventative maintenance for 10 years, but we also are looking at not only today's enrollment but what enrollment will be.”

Ramsey wants solid projections on the district’s future enrollment before making any decisions, she said. Ramsey previously predicted her district’s enrollment falling to around 55,000 students and leveling off.

“Even if a school has low enrollment today, in four to five years, it may be much higher, may double. And so we're not going to make quick decisions with short-sighted data, but we're going to look far out and ensure that we make the right decisions for our school district, not just for today but for the long run,” Ramsey said.

A Fort Worth Report analysis found that 48 schools in the district are less than 70% full. Mike Naughton, executive director of facilities planning and operations, previously described those figures as in “the ballpark.”

Ramsey started her presentation Feb. 20 with an acknowledgment of her district’s boundary lines. Most of the city’s growth is outside Fort Worth ISD, which only covers the urban core.

The Eagle Mountain-Saginaw, Northwest and Crowley school districts have seen booming populations thanks to new home construction.

Ramsey called on the Fort Worth City Council to lure affordable housing developments to the urban core.

Families who leave Fort Worth ISD have told officials that they are moving to nearby school districts because they cannot afford housing costs, Ramsey said.

Council member Elizabeth Beck was glad to hear Ramsey ask for more affordable housing.

“To have our superintendent say that you need affordable housing within the boundaries of your jurisdiction really goes a long way,” Beck said.

The effects of declining enrollment have already taken their toll on the district. As students leave Fort Worth ISD, the district’s share of state funding drops.

A shrinking student population is one of the drivers of the district’s projected $44 million deficit for the 2024-25 school year.

The school board approved laying off 133 employees to balance next year’s budget. The district has not said how much money will be saved.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or via @_jacob_sanchez. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University. Contact him at or via Twitter.