The teary-eyed youngster saw the mayor of Meadows Place talking with parents at the Fort Bend ISD facilities planning session at Marshall High School in Missouri City April 4 and had one question. “Why do they want to close our school?”
This was Mayor Charles Jessup’s third meeting on school planning and he’d expressed the same concerns at the first one when he learned that the district school board was considering closing Meadows Place Elementary.
No decisions have been made by the FBISD school board on any proposed changes to any of the schools. The district is holding town-hall style meetings along with a steering committee where they present the same information on every school at each session and then allow interested parties to give input.
By the time the mayor got to Marshall, he noticed that options for Meadows Place Elementary had changed because the public got involved and was giving the district their input.
So he took time to reassure the little girl.
“She came up to me with her lip quivering asking why. I just put the brakes on that and told her how wonderful it was for them to come up. I told her that no, the school district is not mad at us and they want to know who cares to come out to care. So you tell those other children you helped make a change to Meadows Elementary,” Jessup said.
He learned of the potential closing from Superintendent Charles Dupre, who told him to show up at the school board meeting.
“We went to that board meeting and we were in shock. So we got signs and shirts. Now more options are on the table and it shows me that the district is listening to and responding to the parents and stakeholders,” Jessup said.
Not everyone was so optimistic. Since this was Jessup’s third meeting, he knew what to expect. Concerned parents and students packed the Marshall High School auditorium and grew alarmed as the district consultant spent a half hour talking about multiple high schools across the county and their options with no mention of Marshall.
Someone finally shouted a request to talk about Marshall drawing thunderous applause.
The question of why was echoed last week by students, parents, and residents concerned about the future of their particular school.
During the spring of 2018, a Facilities Steering Committee made up of a broad, cross-section of community members and district staff will meet to discuss facilities assessment data, student enrollment projections and community feedback to develop options and recommendations regarding utilization of district facilities, continuing the Facilities Master Planning process that first began in 2013. Ultimately, the updated Facilities Master Plan will inform the development of the District Capital Plan.
The district is looking at shifts in demographics as some schools are underutilized, according to FBISD information.
For Marshall High School graduate, 19-year-old Kayleeya Cahee, it was important for her to come to advocate for her siblings who are still students.
One of the issues, according to the district, is that Marshall High School is underutilized while other schools like Ridgepoint are at capacity. Cahee said that is because students want to attend other schools in the district to get a better education and access to better opportunities they are not receiving.
“For half my classes we’d have substitute teachers. You walk into the computer lab, they don’t work. It’s been like that through all my education, “ said Cahee, who is studying culinary arts at the Art Institute.
“I was taking AP chemistry and had different substitutes every other day,” she said. “I’ve spent days in the school not learning one thing, going from class to class. It makes me feel like I’m being cheated. And now that I’m in college there are things I’m thinking I should know that. But no one cares. This has been going on since I’ve been in Hunters Glen (Elementary). Everybody has gotten used to it, even the student body. And the freshmen class, I just pray for them because it’s gotten worse. They are learning less, retaining less and they are being pushed on and not taught. We are not being challenged.”
Her sister, 17-year-old Jazlyn Cahee, said she has talked to teachers and administrators about her concerns.
“We come up with solutions and propose different ideas on how to improve the school so it’s progress, but we need to amplify our voice somehow,” she said.
The senior brought her 15-year-old brother Brandon Cahee with her. He will be a senior in 2020.
“Closing a school won’t fix a problem. I want him to go to a school that is improved, not a repetition,” said Jazlyn.
The Cahee sisters were among the first to race to the info boards outside of the auditorium to write their concerns. Upon hearing of options like closing Marshall or changing its focus, some parents left feeling dejected thinking the administration had already made up its mind.
In the third day of sessions, there were minimal “parking lot suggestions” listed as the consultant read off options, for what some parents called “the black and brown schools.”
“See, no one cared about options at the other meetings for our schools. They don’t care,” said one mother who was talking with a cluster of parents but declined to give her name.
The mayor of Meadows Place said he left that first meeting feeling he was going to have a fight on his hands to save his school. By the third meeting, he had a different outlook.
“They are listening,” Jessup said.
Parent Erica Lohse said she was concerned about changes to Hightower High School. “Hightower doesn’t have a middle school and it’s the only one in the district. Why didn’t they think about that when planning? Ridgepoint doesn’t have enough schools so they need to compensate for the population. Why wasn’t that thought out? There needs to be a partnership with the mayors and the city planners. They need to talk with each other about what do we need to do to revitalize the area. The district needs to figure out how to get some of the programs in some of the low population schools so they can graduate with knowledge,” said Lohse.
The district will hold it’s last meeting April 11 at Austin High School, 3434 Pheasant Creek Drive, Sugar Land. The reports are on their website under strategic planning at www.fortbendisd.com/site/Default.aspx?PageID=95788.