HISD votes to close four elementary schools

May 13, 2011 3:57:50 AM PDT
Houston ISD has decided to close four small elementary schools it has determined to be economically unviable.

The HISD board spent late Thursday evening determining the fate of Grimes, Rhoads, McDade and Stevenson elementary schools. A number of parents and students attended the meeting, hoping their last-minute plea to save their schools would change trustees' mind. It didn't.

"Rather than reach for the low-hanging fruit, run into school closure and consolidation, I'd like for them to look substantive cuts, look at some of their administrative costs, look at this building. The cost of this building is phenomenal," parent E. Byron Marbley said. "There are other ways to reach their budgetary goals without closing neighborhood schools."

With the closures, the school district will save nearly $1.7 million and shorten the $160 million budgetary gap it's expecting from the state.

"It's very inefficient. If you look at the numbers, you realize they have to spend a lot of money just to keep the building open," said Anne Eagleton, who supports the district's decision. "That's not money spend on children's education. That's hiring a custodial crew, that's having the electricity on, cooling, heating. I'd rather the money spent in the classroom on our children."

HISD had been weighing options for months now and finally decided it is unable to offer the schools, which host fewer than 400 students each, the same level of programs at larger schools and that keeping them open.

"Really these are no longer educationally viable schools," HISD's Jason Spencer said. "We really feel like these students are gonna be better served in schools that are a little bit bigger."

The students who attend the small schools closing will now be sent to one of the following other schools:

  • Students currently zoned to McDade would be redistributed among Paige, Cook and Kashmere Gardens elementary schools.
  • Rhoads Elementary and Grimes Elementary students would attend the Woodson pre-kindergarten through 8th grade school.
  • Stevenson Elementary would be redistributed to Memorial and Love elementary schools.

Still, a lot of parents maintain all this talk of money is putting at risk the safety and education of their children.

"I'm very concerned," parent Logan Poole said.

We found a video posted on YouTube of what parents say is a fight at Woodson Middle School, a campus now pre-K through eighth grade. The video was produced by a grassroots group called "Save Our Schools" and civic leader Travis McGee. His point is they don't want the Grimes students exposed to what's seen on the video.

"Elementary kids should not be in the same building with middle school kids," McGee said.

Poole says she doesn't want her children being moved from grimes to Woodson. Even though it's still a short walk from home, she says its more dangerous and with more traffic, she says, more crime.

"It's a lot of crazy things that go on around in this area," Poole said.

HISD says any student affected by a closure can choose to attend any other HISD school if they don't want to go to the school where they would then be zoned. But there has to be room at the school they want to attend.

The next big question that now remains is the future of the teachers at the four elementary schools. The staff is suggesting they'll be able to save most of the jobs, but it remains to be seen.

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