AP NEWS

Campuses to close: BISD votes 6-1 to shutter three schools

May 17, 2019

The signs and pleas from students, parents and employees were not enough to convince the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees to keep Victoria Heights, Resaca and Longoria elementary schools open.Although the trustees said it was a difficult decision to make, they voted 6 to 1 Thursday evening to close the schools immediately.Board President Minerva Pena was the only nay vote. Board members Erasmo Castro, Laura Perez Reyes, Phillip T. Cowen, Sylvia P. Atkinson, Prisci Roca Tipton and Drue Brown voted in favor of closing the schools.Jessica Gonzalez, has been a parent volunteer at Resaca Elementary School. The board’s vote brought her to tears. Her young daughter Emma is a second grader at the school, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to break the news to her.“She needs to hear it from me. We are going to have to have a serious conversation as a family,” Gonzalez said. She believes bickering among the board members is what prompted them to vote in favor of closing the schools.“They refused to listen to us because of the bickering. There’s money (out there). They want a fine arts building. There’s money for that — they always find money… It’s upsetting that they refuse to even try,” Gonzalez said.The meeting’s agenda indicated the recommendation to close the schools followed a “review of data analyzed by various district departments” and was based on maintenance and operation costs.District officials also said the closures are necessary because of a decrease in enrollment at BISD schools.Before the vote was taken, the trustees heard from at least 17 people in attendance who pleaded with the trustees not to close their schools. Three public speakers supported the closures.“I look forward to seeing my favorite teacher and friends. Please, please save my school,” Resaca Elementary School student Gabriela Davila said.At a facilities committee meeting held earlier this month, District Planner Lee Garcia presented data showing BISD enrollment has fallen from 49,111 in the 2010-2011 school year to 44,452 this year, a loss of 4,659 students. The projected enrollment for next year is 43,335. He said the city’s birth rate has fallen from 5,882 in 2003 to 4,912 in 2010 to 4,121 in 2017, accounting for part of the decline.“We have pretty much reached a crisis point in our schools,” Interim Superintendent Sylvia Ann Reyna Hatton said. She said the district continues to experience a decline in enrollment and thus is experiencing a decrease in funding.Addressing the packed BISD board room, Trustee Phillip T. Cowen said, “We are not trying to do anything bad. The birth rate is what is driving this. We just don’t have the families.”Trustee Drue Brown told those in attendance that there are some decisions that cannot be made only with the heart and the board is charged with doing what is best for the district.“This has been a long time coming. We have to look out for the whole district, and we have to make a decision,” Brown said._____

8:16 p.m.

The signs and pleas from students, parents and employees were not enough to convince the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees to keep Victoria Heights, Resaca and Longoria elementary schools open.

Although the trustees said it was a difficult decision to make, they voted 6 to 1 vote this evening to close the schools immediately.

Board President Minerva Pena was the only nay vote. Board members Erasmo Castro, Laura Perez Reyes, Phillip T. Cowen, Sylvia P. Atkinson, Prisci Roca Tipton and Drue Brown voted in favor of closing the schools.

Officials said “review of data analyzed by various district departments and based on maintenance and operation costs, Administration is recommending” the closure of the schools.

Officials also said the closures are necessary because of a decrease in enrollment at BISD schools.

At a facilities committee meeting held earlier this month, District Planner Lee Garcia presented data showing BISD enrollment has fallen from 49,111 in the 2010-2011 school year to 44,452 this year, a loss of 4,659 students. The projected enrollment for next year is 43,335. He said the city’s birth rate has fallen from 5,882 in 2003 to 4,912 in 2010 to 4,121 in 2017 accounting for part of the decline.

lmartinez@brownsvilleherald.com