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Myriad ideas disclosed for rethinking island schools

By MATT DEGROOD The Daily News

The possibilities for reconfiguration Galveston schools includes, at least initially, everything from closing Scott Collegiate Academy or Central Middle School, to changing which buildings house each school, to creating grade-specific schools, according to a list school board President Matthew Hay released Friday

Hay cautioned the ideas were very preliminary, entirely from him and had not been discussed with or endorsed by other trustees.

“There are so many permutations, and some would have a 1 percent chance of working and five times the effort to pull off and some have a 95 percent chance of working and would be easy to pull off, but might not solve the STAAR scores or make parents happy,” he said.

“There are time constraints, public input cost, building usage, the TEA and most importantly what is best for the students.”

While the options Hay gave Friday were not all-inclusive or even serious proposals, the one constant was the closing of Coastal Village Middle School, which he highlighted was a personal decision.

“We have been phasing out a grade each year and it would not be cost effective to have 60 students by themselves as eighth graders at that building,” he said.

With three of Galveston’s five middle schools rated as “improvement required” in the most recent Texas Education Agency assessment, trustees and administrators are exploring whether reconfiguring the student populations might improve performance.

A school reconfiguration would change the determining factors in which students go to which schools.

Middle schools required by the state to improve are Central, Weis and Coastal Village. Repeated failure to meet state demands for improvement can have a range of consequences for public schools including intervention by state education officials.

Two of those schools — Central and Weis — are housed at the Central campus.

Coastal Village Middle School is at the San Jacinto campus.

Austin Middle School, 1514 Ave. N, in 2008 was designated a magnet school for fifth to eighth grades. It has risen to the top of the state rankings.

The fifth middle school is Scott Collegiate Academy, 4116 Ave. N 1/2, which, like Austin, met standard in the most recent state assessment.

Wednesday, Galveston school trustees, moved by public frustration over town hall formats, apologized for a lack of communication about reconfiguration plans, with Hay promising to answer any questions.

Within the eight major options, Hay suggests a total of 23 different options for a potential reconfiguration.

“All it really is is me listing every possible mathematic combination that I could think of that makes the numbers work,” Hay said. “There are probably just as many I could not think of, and some of the ones on the list I wouldn’t even personally think are a good idea, but they do mathematically work.”

Friday’s list also did not include public opinion, which trustees do not have access to.

At recent town hall meetings, participants were asked to write answers for four different questions. The fourth question solicited comment about upcoming reconfiguration plans.

District officials have said the information from the community will be released sometime later this month.

Another consideration Hay’s list does not take into account is the effect upcoming facility repairs could have on any plans.

A recently repaired Weis building sits empty, while extensive work is needed on the roofs at Ball High School, Central Middle School, the Rosenberg building, Scott Elementary School and former Alamo Elementary School, Director of Facilities Paul Byers said in a report to the board of trustees.

The work on Ball High School, which was designated the highest priority repair, is estimated to cost about $5.5 million.

District officials have spent about $4.7 million since 2013 on regular facilities maintenance, but costs have begun to increase, in large part because of the needed roof work, Byers said.

One of the most recently completed projects was a $1.8 million roof replacement at the Weis building.

In addition to the $5.5 million for Ball’s roof, the costs to replace the other roofs are Central, $2.5 million; Scott, $1.5 million; Alamo, $1 million; and Rosenberg, $1 million.

“Other things that could impact the above list would be what types of programs/curriculum we would/could put into the other campuses if Austin is left as it is,” Hay said.

District officials have previously cited Austin’s status as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academy as a reason for its success.

“A second STEM program, a bio-med program, a gifted and talented program, a true collegiate prep program — things that would draw students to Weis or Central the way STEM attracts parents to Austin,” Hay said.

Trustees and other district officials are meeting with a community group of about 40 people, including parents and school faculty, on Feb. 9-10 to talk about potential plans moving forward.

“I expect by Feb. 11 to have this list dramatically pared down to reasonable choices,” Hay said.

© 2017 The Galveston County Daily News