Three elementaries -- Dodson, Nathaniel Q. Henderson and Port Houston -- Fleming Middle Schools and Jones High School will be closing their doors to their students if the Houston ISD school board agrees with administration proposals spelled out in a press conference this morning.
All the schools fell prey to plunging demographics -- they don't have enough kids -- and while there are indeed other HISD schools that don't reach the desired enrollment standards the district has established (400 kids at an elementary, 750 at middle schools and 1,000 at high schools) the five selected in this round are also blessed/cursed with being close enough to other HISD schools that can absorb their student bodies.
In addition, Billy Reagan K-8 has been such a smashing success that the district says it has to rezone around it because it needs to send some of the overflow of kids to other nearby schools.
As usual, administration officials said nothing was set in stone and announced a series of community meetings at the schools named in the proposal. Not only students and their parents but teachers and other school personnel will obviously be affected if the changes go through.
Chief Student Support Officer Mark Smith insisted that while, yes, there should be a cost savings to the district with the closures, this was not the primary reason for shutting down schools. By moving students to other schools, the hope is that with a more robust campus population, more courses and extracurriculars can be offered.
Here's the deal:
Dodson Elementary's kids go to Blackshear, Rusk K-8 and Lantrip.
Nat Q. Henderson students go to Bruce and Pugh.
Port Houston students move over to Pleasantville.
Fleming Middle School students move to Key, McReynolds and Marshall
Jones High School students go into Sterling and Worthing.
Some Reagan K-8 kids are sent to Petersen and Montgomery elementaries, both of which feed into Dowling Middle. Based upon data from a "snapshot" taken of HISD student demographics at the end of October 2013, HISD demographer Justin Silhavy said statistics show declining newborn population in the east, northeast and north parts of the district while there are increasing birth rates in neighborhoods such as The Heights, Montrose and the West End.
In the south part of the district, most of the growth has been along Beltway 8 and 288 south of Worthing and Sterling high schools. In uptown and the West part of the district, there has been "construction of multi-family projects with high student yields compared to inner loop development" according to Silhavy's power point.
The northeast and Ship Channel areas are seeing lower student enrollments, which Silhavy attributed to "an aging population and declining number of births." Although he did note that "Habitat for Humanity will construct a 500-home for community in 2015 within the Elmore ES zone."
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Within the Inner Loop, Silhavy noted low student to housing unit ratios and that a lot of early 20th century housing in "The Heights, old Third Ward, Montrose, Medical Center/Museum District, Washington Corridor, East End" was being demolished.
During the press conference, a hefty report was passed out to the media entitled "Houston ISD: Campus Demographic and Enrollment Report 2013-2014," with detailed information on every school in the district. In response to a question about if this was online (it
isn't wasn't ) and why not, HISD Chief Communications Officer Tiffany Davila-Dunne said that she'd see to it that a link was placed on the HISD website. And we were notified by the HISD press office Friday that the report is now online. Alejandro Morua, with Family and Community Engagement for the district, outlined how HISD is keeping parents and other concerned parties in the loop about the proposed changes. Parents were informed last night. There are six community meeting scheduled and there will be a presentation at the next HISD school board workshop.
Community meetings are Tuesday, February 11 for Dodson, Henderson, and Jones; Monday, February 17 for Port Houston and Fleming; and Tuesday, February 18 at Reagan K-8.
Smith said final recommendations to the board will be made on February 20.