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North Forest enrollment down hundreds

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The school year is about to start for thousands of youngsters around Houston, including North Forest ISD, but parents are confused about the upcoming year since the state decided North Forest should be shut down.

The North Forest Independent School District says enrollment is down hundreds of students, and that has parents concerned. 13 Undercover exposed financial problems in North Forest ISD, and the district is supposed to close next year.

There has been confusion among parents whether the schools will open. The TEA has the authority to close the schools today, but the agency decided to give the district a one-year reprieve. That's allowing some students to go back to school this year without leaving their neighborhood.

For Marisol Saenz, it's a matter of logistics.

"They provide day care for my kids and that's a good thing because I'll be able to come to school with my kid while she's in day care and they have transportation provided for us," she said.

Saenz dropped out of North Forest High School but is registering to go back this year. More than academic issues, those who registered on Tuesday for classes say it's the school's proximity to their homes that's most important.

Yvonne Turner is transferring her daughter from another school district.

"She didn't like it, so I'm brining her back over here and it's closer to my house," Turner said.

It's an option that may not always be available. Last month, the state education commissioner gave North Forest ISD warning it would close the district next year in July 2012. Administrators say the pubic announcement has had an effect on parents.

"Yes there has been confusion. We really need to get the message out to people that we are open, we are open for school," North Forest High School principal James Troutman said.

Last year, North Forest ISD's enrollment was at approximately 7,300 students. This year, the budget is based on an enrollment of 6,600 students.

Changes this year include a $5 million budget cut, 120 Jobs cut and a state-appointed academic conservator.

The TEA says the intervention for the long troubled schooled district is to try and improve student test scores and balance the budget. And while the district is appealing the state's decision, district officials say they are ready to meet this year's challenges.

"By maintaining quality academic programs, prudent fiscal decision making and public trust," North Forest ISD Assistant Superintendent Johnny O'Connor said.

"Can that be done?" we asked.

"That can be done," O'Connor replied.

The state says when the appeal is filed, it's the state commissioner of education who will review it and make the final decision.

Meanwhile, the first day of school in the school district is Monday.

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