Houston ISD prepares to start year with North Forest schools

In the weeks since the annexation of North Forest, HISD has poured more than $10M into schools that the state considered failures

August 19, 2013 3:00:06 PM PDT
The school year is almost here, and for hundreds of students formerly in North Forest Independent School District, they'll be starting in a new district.

After years of legal and government battles to stay independent, North Forest officially disappeared last month and was absorbed into the state's largest school district ? Houston ISD.

In the weeks since the official annexation, HISD has poured more than $10 million into schools that the state considered failures.

Mike Walker is like a proud parent showing off a new child.

"I think what they're going to see is an excellent product, and I'm so excited to be a part of that," he said.

Walker is the new principal at Hilliard Elementary -- a former North Forest school that is now part of HISD.

"We're ready," Walker said. "We're there."

He's creating a new culture here with new teachers decorating their renovated rooms.

"New furniture; paint on the walls. We're waxing the floors," he said.

Eight hundred of the district's estimated 5,000-plus students will attend Hilliard. It's one of five elementary campuses. There's also one middle school and one high school.

HISD did consolidate and close down some of the existing North Forest buildings. One property will ultimately be a new North Forest High School.

The state ordered North Forest to become part of HISD after the Texas Education Agency determined the district was mismanaged and was not meeting educational standards. Those standards apparently extended to the facilities themselves, which are getting new landscaping and fencing, updated libraries with new books, and new computers.

"We just started July 1, so we haven't had a lot of time out here, but I think you can see a significant difference," Ronnie Veselka with HISD said.

Walker wants that difference to extend in what the children learn and the way his school communicates with families.

"Very inviting classrooms; teachers that are really excited about the kids learning and using the curriculum that we have," he said. "That's going to be right on point with what the state of Texas expects us to do."

School starts next Monday, but most of the campuses are hosting "meet the teacher" nights this week. Hilliard Elementary's is 4-6pm Thursday.

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