Looking sharp in a light grey suit, white shirt, and red tie, Hilliard Elementary Principal Mike Walker is working the room. Even though summer school officially began at 8 a.m., parents are still arriving with their children at 8:30. Despite some minor confusion, North Forest’s Summer School Program is officially underway.
Classes also are being held at Shadydale Elementary, Forest Brook Middle School, and North Forest High School Monday through Thursday until August 1. Buses are picking up students at their home campus at 7:10 a.m. and transporting them to one of the schools where summer classes are being offered.
Hilliard Assistant principal Nathaniel Riley is greeting parents, answering questions, and directing them to the registration desk. Diane Blakely, a former HISD principal, and Pamela Evans, Manager of External Funding, are running registration efficiently, helping parents fill out forms and sorting the papers by grades K-5. They are planning on 10 classes with at least 12 students per class for the next 16 days. If more students show up, they will accommodate them.
The students are here for various reasons—they may need help preparing to retake the STAAR test, they may not have met grade-level promotion standards, or they could be English Language Learners trying to get ahead before regular classes resume on August 26. A parent stops Principal Walker to ask exactly what they will be covering in class. He pulls up a chair and sits down to answer all her questions, while her son, dressed in khaki shorts and a white polo shirt with his mesh backpack, waits patiently.
By 9 am, the lobby area is clear of parents and students, and classes have begun. In room 310, reading teacher Patricia Petitt and math teacher Tamika Richardson are sitting down with their new students, who will be 2nd graders in the fall.
“What do you want to learn this summer?” Ms. Petitt asked a shy youngster named Desiree.
“Math,” she said.
“And you, Melanie?”
“Great!” said Ms. Petitt. “We’re going to do some reading, some math, some singing, and some moving around. But first we are going to learn the rules. We’re going to have a lot of fun!”
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Hilliard is expecting about 175 students to enroll before registration closes at the end of the week. Two cafeteria ladies wheeling a cart loaded with cereal and milk for breakfast said that they are preparing a lunch of chicken nuggets, collard greens, rolls, and milk for 400 to make sure they have enough.
The flower beds flanking Hilliard’s main entrance are freshly planted, making a good first impression on visitors. The lobby is bright and filled with colorful murals. Although there are a few workmen around, replacing lights and checking on minor details, Hilliard looks ready to go.