Some parents of students in Humble Independent School District are up in arms.
They say they received a letter from the school district saying the new North AG Center is next to what is now a halfway house.
“We have learned that a property within walking distance of the barns now serves as a housing ministry to people who have been released from prison,” read part of the letter.
The district went under contract on the AG Barn property in July 2018 and the owners of the halfway house purchased their property in Aug. 2018.
At that time, the school district says it didn’t know what the building was going to be used for. According to Montgomery County, a registered sex offender is not required to notify anyone unless there is a school in close proximity and they are in the “high risk” category. This particular sex offender is a moderate risk.
“It’s nice starting new, having a new facility,” noted Humble ISD Junior, Annemarie Sokol.
She has been raising animals for 4H and FAA for years and is thrilled to raise more this school year in a brand new facility.
“She’s happiest when she’s with the animals. She would love her life in this barn and be content,” explained Annemarie’s mother, Maryanne.
When Maryanne found out her daughter would be in close proximity to a registered sex offender, she was of course caught off guard but not alarmed.
“This is what she loves [and] I’m not about to take that away from her,” said Sokol. “We were OK with it. We were cautious but not fearful. She knew she had a job, and we knew we raised her right.”
But other parents were not as accepting as Sokol.
“I’m really upset and really angry, and it makes me sick especially for our kids,” explained Humble ISD parent Larissa Powell.
Powell and others say the district did not act fast enough when they learned about the property.
“They should have done it when they were notified in June,” noted Powell. “They should have had an increased police force out there they should have just jumped into action. I feel relieved but I feel like it’s a little too late.”
Other parents like Jenny Conant say they are glad everyone was informed with the letter but are also upset she personally had to find out prior through Facebook.
“There is a huge part of our FAA group that has no idea this is going on so I was glad they sent it last night,” said Conant.
Powell is the one who brought it to the school district’s attention earlier this summer. She is a part of the Community Crime Protection Program for the neighborhood across the street from the Ag Center. They do an annual search of sex offenders to see who has relocated into the area.
That’s when they discovered the halfway house run by South Coast Set Free had moved into that building.
“I was concerned about the children [and the] high schoolers that come here alone without a parent to take care of their animals,” said Powell.
But even with parent frustration, students like Annemarie say they she is aware of her surroundings and grateful for the protection put into place by the school district. “Every morning and every night there’s a police officer here. I never feel scared to come into here.”
“I feel they are doing the best that they can with what they know,” said Conant.
Right now, according to Jamie Mount, Humble Independent School District’s Chief Communications Officer, it is trying to purchase the property so the halfway house can be relocated.
It is also implementing more safety measures including a perimeter fence with a badge reader, security cameras, parking lot lighting, and an alarm system.
Additional safety measures that the district is in the process of adding include: an eight-feet concrete wall between the two properties; enhanced security cameras; motion-activated exterior lighting; badge readers at barn interior and exterior door locations so that doors can be opened only by authorized students, their parents, or staff; and six Emergency Blue Phones with push-button direct talk to the Humble ISD Police Department.
Here is part of the email sent to families of students enrolled in Agricultural Science Classes (KPHS and KHS):
“We have learned that a property within walking distance of the barns now serves as a housing ministry to people who have been released from prison. This halfway house was not disclosed to the district when the barn or transportation properties were purchased. As a result, Humble ISD is actively working to purchase the property so that it can be repurposed. Humble ISD Police are working to make sure that all residents are in compliance with any applicable laws pertaining to their specific situations.
As is always best practice, students should travel to the North AG Barn with family or friends, and when there is an adult on-site, rather than alone. Students should plan to work at the North AG Barn when Humble ISD Security and/or the Barn Manager are present on the property. Students who raise steer have already been notified of the safety precautions by phone, as they have been accessing the facility safely. While the situation is an unwelcome challenge, the additional precautions being taken will provide layers of safety to protect all students.”
To see what sex offenders may be in your area, you can visit the state DPS website.