There's a baby boom, according to the Heights Kids Group
The Heights Kids Group, a network of more than 900 families with young children, is reporting a baby boom.
As of last month, the membership list included 779 babies born between 2006 and 2010, including 242 in 2009.
Thus, the group's leaders and other Heights residents said they were astounded when the Houston Independent School District proposed closing Love Elementary School, 1120 W. 13th St., and three other Houston elementaries due to low enrollment.
"All you see are babies everywhere," said Bronwyn Lauder , a Heights Kids Group member and Love Elementary PTO president. "If we shut the school now, where will we be in a couple years with all these kids who are 2 to 3 years old now?"
Katherine Heinrich, another Kids Group member whose son attends nearby Travis Elementary, agreed.
"We were really taken by surprise when only four schools were proposed and (Love was) one of them," Heinrich said. "You've got to wonder, 'Why Love?', when the school is on such a positive trajectory."
School district officials said the proposal to close Love was based upon projected enrollment over the next 10 years, the number of students in temporary buildings and space at neighboring campuses.
The school's capacity is 543, with almost half of it in temporary buildings, officials said. This year's enrollment is 425.
Love is the largest of the four elementary schools considered for closure under a budget-cutting proposal district superintendent Terry Grier presented March 3.
Based upon the district's February 2010 enrollment projection for Love, done by Magellan Consulting, no increase is expected through 2019-20, officials said.
School board Trustee Anna Eastman, a Heights resident whose district includes Love Elementary, said she has seen "an explosion" of families with children younger than age 10 in the neighborhood.
The work done by the Love community to attract these families should not be discounted, Eastman said.
"While I understand the need for (the school board) to be very shrewd with our budget and take a hard look at our small schools, I also see this extreme amount of growth in our neighborhood," she said.
"I see parents who are willing to dig in, work at schools and be part of the process of making the school something they would choose for their own kids," she said. "I think it's important for the district to be aware of the growth and to listen to what these communities are doing ...."
Part of Love's "positive trajectory," Heinrich said, is its "exemplary" rating, which the Texas Education Agency has conferred twice in the past three years.
As shown on the education agency's website, tea.state.tx.us, Love was ranked "academically acceptable" — third lowest of four levels - for 10 of 12 years between 1993 and 2005.
It fell to "unacceptable" in 2006 but jumped to the top, "exemplary," in 2008.
Some of the school's fifth-graders remember the unacceptable rating, Lauder said.
"They've worked really hard; (Principal) Robert Chavarria has worked really hard," she said. "We wonder what kind of message this (proposed closure) will send to the kids - that their hard work doesn't matter?"
Unlike its three closest elementary school neighbors (Travis, 3311 Beauchamp St.; Harvard, 810 Harvard St.; and Helms, 503 W. 21st St.), Love is not a magnet school, which means most pupils come from the neighborhood.
Love's status as a neighborhood school also means that, while it got a "small-school subsidy" this year, it does not receive the extra funding and promotion that come with being a magnet school.
"We kind of take pride in that," Lauder said. "We take what little we have and work with it."
Love's principal and teachers have applied for and received grants for the school, Lauder said. After learning of the proposed closure, Love's PTO and other supporters quickly organized a Funfest for April 16, to keep the school in the public eye.
Kelley Devine, a painter and sculptor who recruited artists for the festival's vendor booths, said more parents every year are considering Love their school of choice.
"I have a lot of parents asking me about it, what my experience has been," she said.
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