A hurricane and schools
It’s the newest iteration of “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” — families across HISD’s highly competitive magnet school programs are making the impossible decision whether to evacuate the city to ensure physical safety, or stay in the city in hopes to secure their children’s enrollment in Houston’s best public schools.
Early Thursday, families’ decisions were mixed. Some parents, despite living in areas prone to flooding, were committed to sticking it out through the storm. Others began diligently planning their evacuation, valuing safety over the potential loss of a coveted desk in a magnet program.
But why the agony? What would make a parent with the resources to evacuate think twice about seeking shelter? It all boils down to a key provision in the Houston Independent School District’s Transfer Policies, which govern the HISD School Choice program. Under the policy, “Any student with an approved Magnet transfer must attend the first day of school to which the transfer is granted in order to guarantee a spot at that school unless there is an extenuating circumstance.
Extenuating circumstances must be approved by the office of school choice (i.e. but not limited to death in the family or scheduled travel changes beyond the parent’s control).”
HISD’s reputation for rigidly enforcing this procedure left parents carefully weighing their options in the days leading up to Harvey’s landfall. As of Wednesday evening, the Office of School Choice maintained that missing the first day of school due to a voluntary evacuation failed to be an “extenuating circumstance” protecting a child’s seat in her magnet program, further complicating families’ decisionmaking.
Kelley Burd-Huss, Houston
Signs touts the new campus of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts downtown.