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Students outside zone not choosing Johnston/Eastside Memorial High

Thursday, August 21, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Fewer than three-dozen students outside the Johnston attendance zone have signed up to attend Eastside Memorial High School this fall, raising questions about whether the Austin Independent School District has met requirements that 50 percent of the students on the repurposed campus come from outside the former Johnston High School’s attendance zone.


According to figures released by the Austin Independent School District Wednesday, a total of 451 students have signed up to attend Eastside Memorial. Of that number, 419 students come from the former Johnston High School attendance zone. State law requires that half the students and three-quarters of the teachers in a “repurposed” high school campus come from somewhere else.


When the numbers were raised with the Austin Independent School District, a district spokeswoman said, in essence, that the slate had been wiped clean. Eastside Memorial is a school of choice, and that means that no student has been forced – or zoned – to attend the high school.  Therefore, it would make no difference whether only 1 or 451 students from the former Johnston High School attendance zone signed up for the new high school.


Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott’s letter to the Austin Independent School District is a bit more ambiguous, and the agency had no official answer to the question of attendance requirements. At a public hearing on the accountability system in Lubbock yesterday, education committee staffers had no answer, either.


Even with the strictest definition – half the students cannot return to the campus – Eastside Memorial High School might have met the requirement. In mid-June, AISD said that 220 of the 425 freshman zoned to Johnston would attend Eastside. Tip a few more ninth-grade students into that category of choice, and it could equal half the enrollment that will pass through the doors next week.


For the record, only the Reagan High School zone will send more than a handful of students to Johnston: 16. Other schools include Akins (1); Austin (4); Crockett (2); Lanier (4); and McCallum (1). LBJ High School – where Johnston’s former language arts magnet school was relocated – will send no students to Johnston.


Two high schools were closed last year for poor performance. One was Johnston. The other was Sam Houston High School in the Houston Independent School District. Sam Houston High School made the news recently because teachers that were moved off the campus had yet to be placed on other campuses. As of today, 35 Sam Houston teachers are still without a school, according to the district.


In the AISD, no teachers are in limbo. According to the school district, 29 teachers returned to Eastside Memorial High School. Another 21 secured positions on other Austin ISD campuses. A total of 29 teachers either resigned or retired. And another eight became permanent substitutes. Those numbers would be consistent with the turnover at Johnston in recent years.

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