Hundreds gather to protest HISD school closures

By Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Protests began outside a local elementary school in southeast Houston before the community meeting began.

It was standing room only Monday night inside Port Houston Elementary School. It was so crowded that some people had to listen from outdoors.

A few hundred concerned parents, students and teachers turned out -- largely in opposition of a proposed plan by HISD to close the school, along with four others.

The district cites declining enrollment and fewer homes with families because of an increase of industry in the neighborhood.

"We have to determine, are we really serving our students the best way possible?" said district spokesperson Sheleah Reed. "And in the future, because the demographics will continue to change."

Parents say their involvement and proximity to the school, which is within walking distance, are just two of the reasons they want it to stay open.

"We do believe in this school," said parent Fabiola Chavez. "It has excellent grades, excellent attendance. It has everything it needs for a kid to succeed."

On the northwest side of town there was an even bigger turnout. More than 500 people assembled in opposition to the closing of Fleming Middle School. The meeting there was attended by parents, students, teachers and alumni.

"As far as parents, prior students, current students and former students," said former student Tanisha Green. "We are willing to fight for this school."

HISD will hold another community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening at Billy Reagan K-8, which is slated for rezoning because of an increase in enrollment. Officials then plan to have a final community meeting on Feb. 27 to address concerns brought up the earlier community meetings.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed closures on Thursday, March 13. The outcome will be announced to parents the following day.

If closures take place, students will be consolidated with other schools. A transition period to discuss further plans would then take place between March and May.

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