Third Ward residents outraged over possible closure of Ryan Middle School

May 7, 2012 3:25:44 PM PDT
Residents in Houston's Third Ward are fighting mad. They say HISD's plans to close Ryan Middle School is just another step toward destroying their history.

The vote scheduled for Thursday has been delayed, but school board members are talking about the possible closure at a public meeting which started at 4pm. The district says it intends to reopen the school at some point, but angry residents say they want it in writing.

As the former home of Yates High School, Ryan Middle School is one of the most storied schools in Houston's historic Third Ward. But dwindling enrollment numbers have put the school's future in jeopardy and HISD is threatening to close it.

"We're are not going to let you close our schools. We are not going to let you close our arteries. We are not going to let you destroy the Third Ward community," said Carolyn Evans-Shabazz with the Tierwester Civic Association.

On Monday, outraged residents threatened to occupy the school in protest if trustees move forward with the plan to temporarily shut down the campus at the end of the academic year. HISD funds schools according to enrollment, so financially, Ryan Middle School is hurting, and as a result the school can't afford to offer elective classes or hire counselors or a full-time nurse.

Ten years ago, there were 830 students. Today, there are only 265 students. That's a 68 percent decrease in enrollment over the past decade. Ryan is part of Apollo 20, a program designed to help low-performing schools by having longer hours and more tutoring.

"How do you take monies that have been invested for Apollo then the very next year say that the school is closing? How do you remodel a school with tax dollars and then say the school is closing?" Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said.

In a letter to parents, the school's chief middle school officer maintained, "This decision was made with one thing in mind: what is best for the students. We will continue to work with the school community to determine the most appropriate use of the building so we can ensure its legacy is preserved for generations to come."

"If you have a school that's achieving ,that's doing well, why would you dismantle what you have in place? And now look at it, it's closing," Third Ward resident Sister Mama Sonya said.

Close to 600 students are zoned to Ryan but school officials say fewer than half attend and have transferred to other schools because some parents felt like their kids would get a better education.

Read HISD's letter to Ryan Middle School families.

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