Houston ISD officials are proposing to close five small schools at the end of this academic year, a move likely to set off protests from parents and alumni.
Some on the school board – which ultimately must approve the plan – already are expressing concerns about the closures, which would affect more than 2,000 students.
The campuses slated to close are Jones High School, Fleming Middle School, and Dodson, N.Q. Henderson and Port Houston elementary schools, according to Houston Independent School District spokeswoman Sheleah Reed.
The district posted news of the potential closures on the schools’ websites Wednesday, saying that they were “part of a plan designed to address fluctuating enrollment and changing demographics across the city.”
The schools each enroll fewer than 500 students, according to 2013 district data. In many cases, numerous students who live in the neighborhood transfer to attend other HISD campuses or leave for charter schools.
Jones High School in southeast Houston, once a thriving campus that launched the district’s Vanguard program for gifted students, enrolled 440 students last year, according to district data. More than 900 students zoned to Jones, however, left to other HISD high schools, with about half attending Milby and Chavez, each about 7 miles away.
“Something needs to be offered at that school. If it can be offered at Chavez, it can be offered at Jones,” said Cheryl Diggs, a 1988 Jones graduate who owns property in the nearby South Park neighborhood. “Give the students a reason to stay. It makes no sense.”
See School Zone and Hair Balls for more; the latter provided this link to HISD’s campus demographic and enrollment report. I get the rationale behind this, but it’s not clear to me that having a few smaller schools in a huge and diverse district like HISD is a bad idea. Maybe offering some kind of specialized programming at these campuses is a superior alternative to closing them. Closing schools can have a profound effect on a neighborhood, which is probably why at least three trustees so far – Paula Harris, Rhonda Skillern-Jones, and Juliet Stipeche – have had negative reactions. Whether this proposal ultimately makes sense or not, this is going to be a tough sell for HISD. A press release panning the idea from Working America is beneath the fold.
Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, released a statement in response to Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) proposal to close five schools at the end of the 2013-2014 school year:
Texas currently ranks 49th out of 50 states when it comes to how much we spend on every student in our classrooms. Yesterday, Houston residents were shocked to learn that this trend of stripping resources from our communities would continue with the proposed closure of 5 schools at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Since the start of the 2013 school year, Working America Texas has been galvanizing Houston communities to take a stand against this trend of defunding education. By going door to door, we have collected over 4,900 signatures on a petition from Houstonians concerned about the quality of education, the high dropout rates, and the lack financially transparency by the HISD.
“I don’t understand how HISD could consider closing five schools just weeks after giving Superintendent Terry Grier a $125,000 bonus,” says parent Michael Hicks, of Houston. “I find it disturbing that once again, we’re closing more schools. My tax dollars belong in the classroom, not the pockets of school administrators,” he concluded.
“Our over13,000 members in Houston don’t understand how we’re considering school closures after residents voted to pass an astonishing $2 billion bond to build more schools,” said Working America Texas State Director Durrel Douglas. “Our members tell us every day that they want great public schools and this is clearly not a step in that direction for our city. Houston is growing at a rapid pace, and we are setting ourselves up for failure if we do not have a first-class class public education system that can meet the needs of the people. We will keep the pressure on the HISD school board and will continue to hold them accountable to the needs of Houstonians,” said Douglas.