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Lots of pushback on HISD’s school closure proposal

People don’t like it when schools get closed.

With the temperature near freezing, Maria Salazar bundled her three young children in jackets on Tuesday and walked them eight blocks to Port Houston Elementary School. She dropped off Joaquin, 7, and Arianna, 5, and then hiked home with her 2-year-old son on her hip. She doesn’t own a car.

Salazar is among parents, community leaders and elected officials in neighborhoods across the city who are voicing emotions from fear to fury over the proposed closures of Port Houston, Dodson and Nathaniel Q. Henderson elementary schools; Fleming Middle School; and Jones High School.

Hundreds packed public meetings this week, trying to persuade Superintendent Terry Grier and the school board to spare the schools. Grier plans to present a formal recommendation to the board in March.

Black activist Quanell X said he is organizing a protest in front of Grier’s house Sunday afternoon, particularly over the proposed closure of Jones High School. He said community members feel deceived because the district included Jones in its bond package last year, committing $1.1 million to renovate the south Houston campus – not close it.

“Since he enjoys turning African-American households upside-down and disrespecting African-Americans, then we will absolutely go to his house to say, ‘Hell no,’” the activist added.

District officials have not announced how they would use the money budgeted for Jones, where about two-thirds of the students are black, if the school is closed.

Parents and others cited various concerns about the potential closures: Shutting down schools will weaken the surrounding neighborhoods. The district should try harder to improve the schools. Some campuses that students would be zoned to attend perform worse academically than those facing closure.

And some people will just have to go longer distances to get their kids to school, as with Ms. Salazar. See here for the background on this. The argument about and the 2012 bond referendum is a good one. One of the arguments that HISD itself made in support of that referendum was that better facilities would help keep more families in HISD schools. If they really believe that, then Jones ought to be a fine test for the hypothesis. I get that there may be neighborhoods where the long term demographic outlook is sufficiently grim for school population that there’s basically nothing that can be done to arrest the trends. I haven’t waded through the district’s massive demographic and enrollment report yet, so it may all be right in there for me to see. If that is the case, HISD needs to make it clear to everyone, especially the parents and children that would be directly affected. They’ve got a tough job ahead of them.

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