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North Forest ISD at the End of the Line? Judge Rejects Ruling, HISD Moves Forward

If bookies are taking bets on whether North Forest ISD will get swallowed up by HISD on Monday, it looks like the smart money is on HISD.

HISD officials seem pretty darn confident about it, considering they've already got plans for summer school classes for North Forest students.

After years of low performance in the academic arena and troubled finances, North Forest was ordered to be annexed by HISD by the Texas Education Association by July 1, but the small school district has fought hard to avoid being gobbled up.

On Wednesday, North Forest lost a last-ditch court battles to keep the school district from being annexed by HISD. U.S. District Judge David Hittner rejected claims that allowing the school district to be annexed by HISD would violate the rights of minority voters under federal law, removing the stay he'd previously granted North Forest.

Hittner's decision came the day after the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, and Hittner cited that ruling in his decision. Hittner wrote that the Supreme Court's ruling meant the TEA officials no longer needed approval from the U.S. Justice Department to make changes like dissolving North Forest and making the smaller school district a part of HISD. (They were required to have any changes that would shift voting power -- say, for example, the election of school board members -- in an area.)

"Because Texas is no longer a covered jurisdiction, it no longer must seek preclearance for any change affecting voting," Hittner wrote.  

This comes after the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin dismissed North Forest's request for an emergency hearing over the dismissal of their lawsuit against TEA Commissioner Michael Williams. On Wednesday, lawyers representing North Forest also filed a petition for a writ of injunction with the Texas Supreme Court, though the court has yet to respond.

While North Forest is still looking for some legal avenue to avoid becoming part of HISD, the larger school district is already putting the machinery in motion to bring North Forest students into the HISD system once the consolidation becomes official on Monday.

HISD sent out a release outlining plans for summer school classes to be offered to North Forest students, beginning July 8. Students who should enroll in summer school will be notified through the mail. The classes will be offered for students who need to retake portions of the STAAR exam, students who have not met grade-level promotion standards, high school students who need to retake STAAR end-of-course exams, high school students in need of course credit recovery, certain English language learners, and certain students receiving special education services, according to the release.

HISD officials are also held a community meeting to discuss the "impending annexation and proposed school attendance zone boundary changes in North Forest," at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Eden Event Center. So they seem pretty sure North Forest will become a part of the HISD system, for better or worse and whether the people in North Forest want it or not. Ought to have been an interesting meeting.


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