HISD votes to close school

Community leaders try to halt school closings

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston Independent School District officials voted to close Ryan Middle School in the Third Ward area on Thursday.

Dozens of parents and community members attended Thursday night's meeting at HISD headquarters in northwest Houston.

The district's 5 to 3 vote means Ryan Middle School will close and students will be relocated to Cullen Middle School by the summer.

Members of the NAACP protested Thursday afternoon in front of Ryan Middle School.

Community leaders voiced concerns that the HISD's plan to consolidate two low enrollment campuses will force minority children to be bused to campuses outside of their neighborhoods.

"We believe the community was deceived and really betrayed," said Reginald Lillie, president of the NAACP's Houston chapter. "We're asking HISD to honor the will of the people."

"We are not going to allow HISD to come in and destroy this community," said Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, education director for the NAACP Houston chapter. "Third Ward, Southpark, Sunnyside are not for sale."

HISD still has to vote on whether to consolidate students from Sterling and Jones High Schools on a new $72 million campus on the site of the current Sterling Campus.

Officials cited low enrollment at Ryan and Jones as the reason for the consolidation. Officials said Jones has fewer than 500 students and Ryan has fewer than 300 students.

HISD said those campuses have fewer students than the average size elementary school in the district. HISD officials said the low enrollment creates a state funding gap that prevents the district from offering a full compliment of academic and extra curricular activities at the schools.

"We believe if the curriculum is improved, we believe if they keep the programs in Third Ward, in our schools, not only would these children stay, but other children would move to our inner city schools," said Lillie. "If there's something wrong with the schools in our community, fix the schools. Don't close them down, don't bus the children outside of their own communities."

Officials said Ryan Middle School will become a Medical and Health Professionals Academy. HISD officials said they also plan to turn Jones into a district wide magnet school for gifted and talented children.

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