In the freshly painted and renovated gymnasium of North Forest High School, several dozen new students registered for classes as school officials touted progress in the district.
Earlier this year, the Texas Education Agency announced it would close the district and merge North Forest students into HISD. But Acting Superintendent Edna Forte says they're asking the state to reconsider that decision.
"There's an accountability appeal, that appeal has already gone in to the state, but there's also an accreditation appeal. The accountability appeal deals specifically with academic accountability — for us that's the completion rate. We had no academic core content areas that we had to appeal, but our completion rate was a concern. The next appeal will be the accreditation appeal. The accreditation appeal is comprised of the academic strand and the financial strand. That appeal will probably come up around December or January."
The completion rate is the number of students who complete all four years of high school. The statewide rate is 75 percent, but in North Forest it's 57 percent. But Forte points out those numbers reflect students who started high school four years ago when the district was under different leadership.
North Forest ISD is in Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee's district and she has been active in fighting its closure.
"They're looking at the old baggage or the old possible missteps of the other high school. This is a brand new high school, a brand new name and we're asking TEA to be fair and to assess us as a new high school."
North Forest consolidated its two high schools into one campus. Still it's the lowest-performing high school in Texas and the district overall has failed to meet academic and financial accountability standards.
"The rating of the school district, please be very clear, is on one school. You're standing in it. It's the high school. They have not looked at the stellar performance of the pre-k school, the Thurgood Marshall school, their elementary schools. They've looked at this school. So that means that you would impact all of those children in the middle school, the elementary and the pre-k on one school. And by the way, they have not looked at this school in its new reformation."
Pending the outcome of the appeal process, North Forest is slated to close at the end of this school year. There are about 7,500 students in the district.