Fort Bend ISD trustees consider new early college high school
Plans for a new early college high school and certificate training programs under development for Marshall, Willowridge and Hightower High Schools were recently reviewed by Fort Bend ISD trustees.
The need for new programs was discussed during preparation for the 2018 bond election as a way to draw increased enrollment to Willowridge and Marshall High Schools, which currently are underutilized, according to administrators. Since then, 204 students have been identified as potential high school dropouts across the district and administrators hope new program opportunities will inspire students who would otherwise leave school to graduate.
“We recognize the need to provide more opportunities for our students,” assistant superintendent Anthony Indelicato told trustees at the Dec. 17 board meeting.
The programs would accept students from across the district and would be open to current eight-graders. Application could be submitted starting sometime in the spring semester. Administrators told trustees they hadn’t determined how they would decide which students would be accepted yet.
Hightower High School principal John Montelongo told trustees a “Pathways of Technology” Program, also called a P-Tech program offering specific certification classes in health science courses was being developed. Trustee Grayle James asked how the new program would differ from the health science academy already in place for Hightower students.
Montelongo said the P-Tech program had a more narrow focus and would offer certification classes in select health science careers whereas the health science academy was a broader program that gave students access to several different types of health science instruction. Marshall High School principal Ogechi Uwaga-Sanders reviewed plans for a “school within a school” for 100 students to participate in an early college high school program offering the opportunity to earn a free associates degree and 60 hours of college credit.
Trustee Dave Rosenthal asked how the “school within a school” program would affect students who participate in UIL sports and fine arts activities.
Students zoned to Marshall will not be affected at all, officials said. However, students who transfer to Marshall to attend the early college high school program would not be eligible for varsity sports for their first year. U.I.L. rules are complex and there are some exceptions. But, the rule only applies to sports and students participating in band or other types of U.I.L. competitions wouldn’t be affected.
Willowridge High School Principal Terence Hayden said a new computer programing “school within a school” was being developed that would offer students the chance to learn JAVA programing. Other high schools offer computer science classes, but WillowRidge would be the only campus to offer JAVA programing skills classes.
Several trustees asked if the programs would negatively affect class rank for the students zoned to the three schools. If programs are open to students from other schools, these students could potentially crowd out zoned students from the top 10 percent of their graduating class. Students who graduate at the top 10 percent of their class can benefit from Texas’ “10 percent rule,” which grants them automatic admission to nearly every state college or university.
Administrators say they are still researching the issue and searching for solutions. Trustees are expected to review and decide whether to implement the new programs at the January school board meeting. If approved, the programs will launch in the summer of 2019.
As part of the development process, administrators will host community meetings in January to give parents, students and other stakeholders a chance to learn more, ask questions and provide input.
A community meeting is scheduled Jan. 9 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hightower High School located at 3333 Hurricane Lane in Missouri City.
Marshall High School administrators will host a community meeting on Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. Marshall High School is located at 1220 Buffalo Run in Missouri City.
On Jan. 23, a community meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. to discuss programing at Willowridge and is being held at McAuliffe Middle School campus located at 16650 South Post Oak in Houston.