Ryan Middle School Plan Approved By Board

Ryan students will move to nearby Cullen; Vote postponed on plan to merge Sterling and Jones high schools 

The HISD Board of Education on Thursday approved a transition plan that will allow historic Ryan Middle School to be repurposed as a magnet school designed to attract students from throughout the city.

The plan addresses low enrollment at Ryan Middle School, which is too small to operate efficiently while offering students the services they need to succeed.  HISD middle schools with fewer than 750 students are considered too small.  Ryan has 263 students.

Students currently zoned to Ryan will be permanently rezoned to nearby Cullen Middle School beginning this summer.

Trustees approved the Ryan plan by a vote of 5-3 with trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Manuel Rodriguez Jr., and Juliet Stipeche opposed.  Trustee Paula Harris was not present.

By combining these student bodies, the larger schools will have additional funding needed to offer a strongervariety of academic course offerings and other services to students.  Because HISD funds schools based on enrollment, schools with few students struggle to offer elective courses that are outside of the basic core curriculum.  Small schools also offer few extra-curricular activities.

Last month, the Board of Education voted to seek federal grant dollars to help start a new magnet school on the Ryan campus.  Ryan would be repurposed as The Medical and Health Professions Academy at Ryan Middle School.  This district-wide magnet middle school would seek to prepare more students to compete for admission into the highly selective DeBakey High School for the Health Professions.

Trustees postponed voting on a plan to consolidate Jones and Sterling high schools. Under the plan, the current student bodies of Sterling and Jones high schools would be combined into a single campus on a permanent basis.  Students from Sterling would move to the Jones campus and remain there while the new Sterling campus is under construction as part of the recently approved HISD bond program.  The school would operate as a single campus, with all students joining together to compete on the same academic and athletic teams.  Once the new Sterling campus opens in late 2016 or early 2017, all students currently zoned to Jones would be rezoned to the new school, a $72.3 million campus capable of supporting modern technology and accommodating the latest approaches to collaborative learning.

In HISD, comprehensive high schools with fewer than 1,000 students are considered too small.  Jones currently has 446 students.

If the merger is approved, HISD is exploring options for keeping the Jones campus open as a district-wideVanguard magnet school for gifted and talented students once the new Sterling High School is opened.  Jones was the original home of the Carnegie Vanguard High School, which now has its own campus.

Board votes to maintain current classroom spending levels in 2013-2014 

The Board of Education also voted Thursday to continue funding classrooms at the same per-student level for the upcoming school year, despite state budget cuts that have cost Houston schools $120 million per year.

 HISD classrooms are funded at a level of $3,341 per elementary student, $3,366 per middle school student, and $3,330 per high school student.

“We know we have a budget challenge ahead of us, but we want to insulate our schools,” said Trustee Greg Meyers.

Trustees approve architecture and design work for three more 2012 bond school

The Board of Education on Thursday authorized the district to negotiate contracts with firms on three more 2012 bond projects, including Grady Middle School, Condit Elementary School, and the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion K-8 School.

HISD officials spent several weeks reviewing qualifications submitted by 85 architectural and engineering firms seeking to do work with the district under the 2012 bond program, which will build or renovate 40 schools across the district. The $1.89 billion bond program, approved by voters in November, will also fund middle school restroom renovations, technology upgrades, and safety and security upgrades.

Listed below are the most highly qualified firms recommended for the selected projects:

·         Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion K-8 School (new facility): PBK Architects

·         Grady Middle School (new addition): Natex Corp.

·         Condit Elementary School (new facility): VLK Architects