Waco ISD began a series of community meetings this week to discuss how it could improve five schools that are at risk of closing after repeatedly failing to meet state standards.
A 2015 law passed by the Texas Legislature requires the Texas education commissioner to close any campus or replace the elected school board of any district the state has rated "improvement required" for five or more consecutive years.
If the district's accountability ratings don't improve by next August, the following schools could be affected: Alta Vista Elementary, Brook Avenue Elementary, J.H. Hines Elementary, G.W. Carver Middle School and Indian Spring Middle School. The ratings are based primarily on the standardized tests students will take in the spring.
Roughly 70 people attended the first meeting Monday night at the Waco ISD Conference Center.
The school district has two main options -- either drastically change its programs or partner with a nonprofit organization to operate those five schools.
“I want to be absolutely clear about one thing,” Waco ISD Superintendent Marcus Nelson said in a press release. “I will not recommend any plan that closes a single school in Waco ISD. These meetings are an opportunity to talk about how we ensure that these schools continue to serve students in their neighborhoods.”
The nonprofit Texas Tribune will send its CEO Evan Smith to moderate the next community meeting on Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the City of Waco's Multi-Purpose Center, which is located at 1020 Elm Ave. A third meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce located at 915 La Salle Ave.
“This isn’t new,” Nelson said. "Our school board has been focused on this from the moment that House Bill 1842 was signed by the governor. What has changed is that we have one year for these five schools to make it off of the improvement required list. I believe that every one of those schools can make it. However, if one doesn’t, I’m not leaving it up to somebody in Austin to decide what happens. That’s why we’re talking now about this legislative mandate and the limited options that the state has given us.”