Parents react to possibility of 17 HISD school closures

April 14, 2011 3:42:47 AM PDT
Parents are reacting to news that their child's school is now at risk of closing because unprecedented budget cuts has HISD scrambling for every penny. Now four times as many neighborhood schools could close as a result.

Initially, HISD said Love, Grimes, McDade, and Rhoads elementaries were at risk of closing down. But now that list has increased to 17 schools across the city. They include both elementary and middle schools.

Parents say they're devastated their schools are even being considered for closure. For HISD, it's another option as they're desperate to battle that budget gap.

The possibility of closing Memorial Elementary brings an immediate response among parents.

"I think it's sad, so sad, because I went to school here, and my mom went to school here," said parent Josette Juarez, whose children now attend the school.

HISD's board of trustees is already considering closing Rhoads, Grimes, McDade and Love elementaries. They are now considering the closure or consolidation of 13 more schools including Memorial Elementary.

"I think there's plenty of children to keep them running and it would be devastating. There kids have gone to school here forever," parent Kathy Howard said.

Memorial Elementary has fewer than 400 students. Closing small schools, says HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier, could save an estimated $600,000 per campus. However, Grier says there is no quota for how many schools will close.

"No, there is no magic number. We're looking at each individually and we're looking at proximity to another school where you might be able to combine some savings," he said.

Savings have already been found elsewhere.

Just this week, HISD announced their latest numbers for teacher layoffs. Budget cuts mean 567 teacher positions so far have been eliminated. Add to that 163 teachers not renewed because of performance and the number equals 730 teachers gone starting next year.

Parents realize classroom sizes will be bigger. Some say they have a solution.

"That's where we're going to have to rally the parent volunteers to come up and put time in and be more involved than ever," Memorial Elementary PTO President Kelly Henrikson said.

Parents say that's what they're planning to do. They're going to fight as hard as they can to keep Memorial Elementary open.

HISD is planning to meet Thursday, but this issue isn't on the district's agenda.

Another option for the school district would be raising its tax rate.

If HISD closed every one of those schools, it would save about $10 million -- nowhere near what is needed to cover the $63 million budget gap.

HISD's board of trustees can raise property tax up to 7 cents per $100 valuation without voter approval. Each 1-cent raise in tax would equal approximately $9.9 million in revenue. However, the possibility of raising tax is on not any agenda for vote.

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