While the Facilities Steering Committee for the Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) spent three hours last week in an open workshop ferreting out the school options that were not feasible to address overcrowding, parents gathered in the audience said they were planning ways to protect their children’s best interest.
While both groups are not necessarily at odds, with options such as closing neighborhood schools and merging others on the table, parents say they want to be organized to make the best of what could be a bad situation.
When the steering committee compiled survey feedback regarding some of the options, there were negative comments made about sending students to Hightower and Marshall high schools. Some parents commented that they pay higher taxes and should not have to “send their children to inferior schools.” That prompted other parents to charge the district with spending money in the older schools to keep them up to par.
Hightower High School parent Geralynn Prince had other reasons for attending the April 26 hearing with plans to return to the May 1 session.
“I want everyone to know the Hightower that I know because we’re doing good things. But there are parents saying they would never send their children to Hightower. We will welcome anyone but we won’t sacrifice our children,” said Prince, who organized a Facebook group called “We Are Hightower.”
Parents have expressed concern that an option to turn Hightower and Marshall high schools into college prep academies open to everyone in the district, would exclude the neighborhood students.
“We’re not going to keep letting our kids get the short end of the stick. Everyone in FBISD pays property taxes. I don’t feel like your house being worth more than mine means your child has a better education than mine. It’s not Riverstone ISD, it’s not Telfair ISD it’s Fort Bend ISD and these schools have to serve everybody,” said Prince.
She was pleased to meet with parents in the audience from Ridge Point High School who have also organized themselves with a Facebook page and website called NoMoreBandAids.com.
Schools in the Ridge Point High School feeder pattern have suffered from overcrowding for years, according to information on the website. The Ridge Point zone is a large and already diverse area that includes Sienna Plantation, Waterbrook, Silver Ridge, Creekmont and parts of Arcola, Fresno and Rosharon along the FM 521 corridor, the site states.
Ridge Point parents in attendance are frustrated because they said the district makes temporary decisions and has no long-term, 10-year plans. “There was poor planning in the past and here we are trying to deal with it. This would not be as painful if they had clean feeder patterns. They were told in 2013 to clean up their feeder patterns,” said Kathi Hopkins, a Ridge Point mother and former member of the 2013 steering committee.
The current 33-member steering committee members were picked by the school board, and the administration, said Hopkins.
“The committee is comprised of a broad cross-section of the community and staff members representing each feeder pattern in the district. Each board of trustee appointed an equal number (3) of committee members, and nine others were then appointed by the superintendent to ensure full coverage of the district and each special student population. There are also three alternates, who will attend meetings and participate as needed,” according to the FBISD website.
In 2013, the steering committee sessions were open to anyone in the community.
“They had over 90 people in a meeting showing up,” said Hopkins.
The work of the previous steering committee resulted in the information that led to a bond issue that passed in FBISD, she said.
“The Ridge Point zone has endured crowded conditions in its schools for many years, and the district continues to inadequately plan for the growth and needs of our students. The data used in the 2014 planning process underestimated the growth of this feeder pattern by 20 percent,” according to their www.fbisdnomorebandaids website.
As the parents talked amongst themselves, shared information, and took notes from the steering committee handouts appearing on an overhead, members of the steering committee sat around tables in small groups mulling over the ideas before them and ranking them. For example, ideas such as creating split shifts at Ridge Point High School could give them a maximum capacity for 10 years without moving students to Hightower or Willowridge high schools. The committee has to explore what that would look like and the implications of such a move.
“Tonight we specifically looked at actions and giving feedback. Some were more implementation than options,” said Beth Martinez, chief of staff and head of strategic planning for FBISD.
The steering committee has been thorough and their task, daunting. They started with four community meetings the first two weeks of April that resulted in more than 21,000 survey responses. They gathered more than 250 options by April 18, with those options explored and narrowed down to 66 options, implementation ideas, and ideas that may or may not be feasible or out of scope. Some options called for rezoning but board policy states that rezoning is a separate dedicated process, which will likely not be addressed until the fall of 2019.
The steering committee was expected to meet again last night, May 1, with a presentation to the school board at a May 7 workshop. The full school board could make their decision on the committee recommendations by May 14.
To follow the steering committee reports and recommendations on the FBISD website, visit www.fortbendisd.com/Page/96009.