HISD plans more meetings about plans to close, rezone 5 schools

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 19 at 12:00 AM

HOUSTON -- HISD continues its increasingly unpopular series of meetings tonight as it informs parents at five schools with dwindling enrollment that it intends to consolidate and close and a sixth that it plans to re-zone to alleviate burgeoning enrollment.

Parents will gather at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Billy Reagan Educational Center in southwest Houston to hear HISD's reasons for re-zoning the school. At present the relatively new facility has 1,180 students and is designed for only 900. HISD proposes changing the school boundaries to shift 300 students to Petersen Elementary and Montgomery Elementary schools.

But at five other campuses, Dodson, Nathaniel Q. Henderson, Jones High School, Port Houston Elementary, and Fleming Middle School, HISD proposes closing the schools and consolidating the students at nearby campuses. At each of the five HISD says demographic changes are leading to declining enrollment that can no longer support the schools.

“It’s gonna die. It’s gonna die," said Fleming Middle School parent Chantel Thomas outside her daughter's school. "This community is actually going to die," she said if Fleming shuts down. Thomas says she's lived in the neighborhood her entire life and that the Fifth Ward location, for all of its shortcomings, has actually improved. But HISD says a large number of homes were not repaired and reoccupied after Hurricane Ike and that the school's 600+ enrollment isn't enough to warrant keeping it open.

Approximately 340 students, 98 percent of them Hispanic, are enrolled at the east Houston campus of Port Houston Elementary. HISD's reasons for proposing shutting it down and consolidating the students at nearby Pleasantville Elementary are obvious. The school is bordered on three sides by industrial development: a scrap yard, a metal fabrication business, an oil and gasoline tanker transport location to name just a few. HISD says as the creep of industrial businesses continues that there are less and less homes feeding into the school.

Jose Cardona, working to load a truck trailer onto his flatbed truck as students ran across the playground across the street, says he understands HISD's proposal for Port Houston.

"You can see its trucks everywhere. Business everywhere. Less homes, less homes and more business. I’m sorry to hear about it but I guess there might be some better place for kids to go to," said Cardona.

But at meetings held Monday night at both Port Houston and Fleming, parents strongly voiced their opposition hoping to cling to the schools as important pieces of their communities.

Parents at Reagan Educational Center, although facing a much different set of circumstances, are expected to do the same.

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