Fight brewing over historic Galveston school

January 4, 2010 3:13:10 PM PST
There's a fight brewing down in Galveston over the fate of a historic high school. Galveston ISD is still struggling to recover from the damage done by Hurricane Ike, and plans to change how the historic Central Middle School is used have some people upset.

After months of wrangling, the downsizing of Galveston ISD is decided. However, some people are unhappy with it and Central Middle School is at the center of the dispute.

In a town that doesn't always welcome change, things inside the school district are changing.

"The board felt in analyzing all the options this one made the most sense for the future of the district and how best to use our facilities," said Lynne Cleveland, GISD Superintendent.

That means Central Middle School will become KIPP Academy at Central and that's a point of contention. Cornelia Harris Banks went to Central when it was still a high school and the former Galveston City Council Member says the school has meaning to her and to the black community.

"Central was the first African-American high school in the state of Texas and people came from far and near to attend Central," said Banks.

The superintendent of the Galveston ISD says about 1,800 students left the district after Ike, prompting a reconfiguration that starts next fall. Twelve schools are affected. At first, Central will house KIPP Academy students from kindergarten through fourth grade and eventually go up to eighth grade.

Central students have been going to Weis with 5th and 6th graders since the hurricane and the school itself has been undergoing renovations to repair storm damage.

Alumna and former school trustee Deborah Jones is against the decision. She points to a pre-Ike school bond that paid for new science labs among other improvements at Central, improvements she says Weis simply doesn't have.

"The historical piece of it, the emotional piece of it is real, but my first piece of it again as a taxpayer that it was not a good, sound fiscal decision," said Jones.

The superintendent says the kids will likely now stay at Weis.

"Anybody can always appeal and address the board with a concern that they have, but as far as I know this is the decision and they're ready to move forward," said Cleveland.

The superintendent told us that the district is down to 6,300 students, but they do expect more people to come back and expect the district to grow to about 7,000 students by 2012.