The HISD leaders tried not to scowl as they walked into classrooms with broken glass, flooded floors, outdated chalkboards, graffiti on walls, gum on desks and the smell of mildew.
The head of food service swept cockroaches from the high school kitchen and pledged that the exterminator would return for a second visit.
“It’s about expectations. Why would you allow this for kids?” Orlando Riddick, the district’s high school chief, asked as he toured North Forest High School Tuesday.
It was the second day of a 55-day clean-up mission that the Houston Independent School District must assume since the state ordered it to take over problem-plagued North Forest ISD. Dozens of maintenance workers and high-level staff descended on the campuses this week, and their concerns quickly stretched beyond cosmetic issues to safety problems.
At Fonwood Elementary, one of North Forest’s older schools, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier pointed out exposed wires and broken playground equipment, and noted that one area inside had failed an air-quality test.
Grier said he hopes to find funds to replace the 54-year-old building, but for now it will get a mild makeover before classes resume in August. Crews this week ripped out mildewed carpeting, prepared to install doors that meet disability rules and ordered new water fountains. The old ones are too tall for children and are bolted to the walls, presumably to keep them from falling or being stolen.
“I just keep repeating, ‘I can’t believe kids were here,’ ” said the new principal, Kimberly Agnew Borders, who lives in North Forest and still attends church in the northeast Houston area.
There are more photos here, and some of them are quite appalling. I understand that people were fighting to keep North Forest in part because it’s part of their history, but seeing the condition of these schools really makes you wonder. I don’t know how things will shake out with test scores and all, but it’s hard not to believe that the students’ school experiences will be better now. Note, by the way, that HISD still has to get student records from North Forest, since they hadn’t been made available to them before July 1. We can’t even begin to talk about comparing student performance until HISD has those records in hand. It’s more than just construction and rehab work that needs to happen before September. Anyway, I’d love to see what the After pictures look like once the physical work is done. K12 Zone has more.