Kingwood, Summer Creek students reflect on Harvey experience, impacts
Heeding the advice of the U.S. Coast Guard, Emma Brinsden and her family evacuated their Kingwood home as floodwater from Hurricane Harvey threatened to cross their front door’s threshold last fall.
The next day, Brinsden’s family began receiving texts from friends and neighbors.
The texts contained pictures of the Brinsden family home, which now held more than 3 feet of water. Then her friends sent her drone footage of a flooded Kingwood High School, where she was a junior at the time. Finally, she learned that even her employer took on several feet of water.
In that first week after Harvey, Brinsden said the uncertainty was hardest.
“I work at Pretty Little Things Boutique down the street (in Kings Harbor), which also flooded, and we didn’t know when that would open back up,” Brinsden said. “We didn’t know when school was starting up again and there was talk about splitting us up with every grade level going to a different school.”
Many students at Kingwood High School were going through experiences similar to Brinsden’s.
To avoid separating Kingwood High students while repairing the campus, Humble ISD officials decided to bus Kingwood students to Summer Creek High School, with whom they would share a campus for the next six months.
Settling at Summer Creek
The commute to Summer Creek High School from Kingwood was sometimes a challenge for teachers and students.
Brinsden, for example, had just turned 16 years old and the only time she’d driven on a highway was with an instructor in the car.
She even popped her first tire on the way to volleyball practice.
The news that Summer Creek High School would be hosting Kingwood High School students while their flood-damaged school was repaired came as a shock at first to Kaylie Lyle, who is entering her senior year at Summer Creek.
“It was a lot to take in at one moment,” Lyle said. “But, I realized it was necessary for them to come and I’m glad we could help them.”
In order to share the campus, the schools had to operate on altered schedules.
Summer Creek attended school from 7 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. Monday through Friday, following a college-like block schedule. Kingwood High started their school day at 12:11 p.m. and were released at 4:30 p.m., following the same block schedule format at Summer Creek. When Kingwood High returned home, both schools remained on a slightly altered non-traditional schedule. Teachers and administrators at Summer Creek noticed students exhibiting higher end-of-course scores, better attendance rates and less disciplinary issues.
“There was less drama and less people getting referrals from teachers because you’re in class for such a short amount of time, and I think people understood that we don’t really have a lot of extra time to play or linger in the halls,” said Kendall Dutton, Summer Creek incoming senior.
Summer Creek High School was given the go-ahead from TEA commissioner, Mike Morath, to remain on an alternative schedule this coming school year. Although permission has only been given verbally at this point, Humble ISD is expecting an official approval in writing to be provided by the TEA soon.
“I think it’s a great idea and we get to model what maybe future schools will get to do,” Lyle said.
The non-traditional schedule is being done as a pilot program. The first bell will be at 7:15 a.m. Class starts at 7:20 a.m. and the final bell is at 1:55 p.m. Under this pilot schedule there is no late arrival schedule Thursdays.
The pilot schedule includes a 30-minute lunch every day, paired with a 1-hour enrichment period Wednesdays and Thursdays for students to allocate to whatever instructional activities they need. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, students will have access to tutoring after school until 2:55 p.m.
Tuesdays through Thursdays, buses will be available for students at 2:55 p.m. in addition to the regular bus running time of 1:55 p.m.
“The schedule provides time for you to decide what you want to study and you get a lot of extra one-on-one time with teachers, whereas the regular schedule that we were doing before, you’d have more in-class time, but less one-on-one help, or time to study on your own,” Dutton said.
Kingwood High School will return to their regular schedule for the 2018-2019 school year, however Brinsden preferred the college-like schedule.
“I think it’s not going to be as easy waking up early,” Brinsden said. “Even when we went back to Kingwood last year we didn’t start until around 9-ish and we still had that block schedule, which I actually enjoyed. Teachers didn’t give as much busy work. Since we had limited class time, they really used that to hit the main points and key things you need to know. The rest you had to work on yourself, so it was more independent. I think it’s going to be different because a lot of kids adapted to different study habits and now we have to go back.”
Dutton explained that in addition to bringing her own school closer together, the experiences resulting from Harvey also forged a closeness between Summer Creek and Kingwood students.
Summer Creek High School’s physical distance from Kingwood High made fraternization between the two schools less common than with high schools in their proximity.
“Usually if people from Summer Creek knew people it was from Atascocita, or something,” Dutton said.
While sharing a campus, Kingwood students would show their appreciation through various gestures like providing breakfast to Summer Creek students and students at Summer Creek would find ways to display their hospitality as well.
“Our varsity volleyball team and Summer Creek’s varsity volleyball team had to share a locker room,” Brinsden said. “So, all these Summer Creek girls made care packages for all of us to share and it had shampoo, conditioner, hair ties and all the things we needed. They left notes saying, ‘Enjoy our space; let us know if you need anything.’ When we left Summer Creek we tried to return the favor by making them goody bags with candy and wrote notes to all of them saying, ‘Thank you for being so kind.’”
The effect of bringing together communities extended well beyond the boundaries of Humble ISD.
Jen Sitton with the Humble ISD Education Foundation announced at the August school board meeting that the Education Foundation collected a record $1.65 million last school year to benefit Humble ISD and over $500,000 was donated in just Harvey relief donations alone.
The Humble ISD Strong fundraiser drew donations from communities near and far. Humble ISD Harvey relief efforts also caught the attention of multiple celebrities like KISS, Barry Manilow and Emeril Lagasse, who all contributed to the cause.
The record amount of funds raised last school year allowed the Education Foundation to continue their innovative education grant program, as well as provide financial assistance to Harvey-affected employees and replace equipment students lost, among other relief initiatives.
“The outpouring of support from across the county like little schools in Montana, or Maryland, and the funding and donations — it was just unbelievable,” said Carrie Brinsden, Emma’s mother who is also involved in the Education Foundation. “For me, it’s what this country should be about and how we help one another.”