This Week's Headlines

South Belt students return to school

METRO opens El Dorado Park & Ride

PISD to hold special election on taxes

Swimming pools to close for season

HCFCD promotes its citizen helpline

H-E-B pharmacy robbed at gunpoint

PISD expands early college program

August, September Israeli Folk Dancing dates set

SJC announces calendar

Mercury opens Bayou Theater season

Home elevation grant deadline approaches

Kids’ Backporch Productions debuts The Lion King Jr.

CCISD completes new spaces, rebuild

PCI offers flooding advice

UHCL announces calendar

2017 South Belt Schlitterbahn vacation contest photos shared

Dobie, Brook football closer to start

San Jac soccer begins last stand

Lady Longhorns’ JV wins Pasadena ISD volleyball tournament championship

BAFL week 1 – Cowboys win three

Local volleyball programs looking to close out wins

Area track and field athletes make waves

JFD netters seek consistency


South Belt students return to school

Summer is coming to a close, and that means it’s time for South Belt students to return to school.

With the exception of incoming freshmen, students in the Pasadena Independent School District will return to class Monday, Aug. 21.

PISD ninth-graders will begin class the previous school day on Friday, Aug. 18.

Pasadena ISD staff members returned to school Monday, Aug. 14. Staff development will take place from Monday, Aug. 14, through Thursday, Aug. 17, with work officially starting on Friday, Aug. 18.

Students within the Clear Creek Independent School District will also begin classes Monday, Aug. 21.

It is a year of many firsts for Pasadena ISD. New this year are the Dobie ninth-grade center, the district-wide Early College High School (ECHS) program, and the district’s first open-enrollment program.

Ninth-Grade Center
While the new Dobie ninth-grade center is still scheduled to open this school year, the opening has been postponed until early 2018, according to Pasadena ISD officials.

Originally scheduled to open in August 2017 for the 2017-2018 school year, the campus is now expected to open in January 2018.

School officials sent a letter to parents notifying them of the delay.

“The building will be first class, state of the art and beautiful,” said Dobie Principal Franklin Moses and Dobie Ninth-Grade Campus Principal Mike Van Essen in the joint letter. “Construction crews have been working diligently the past 14 months. We want to make sure that all parts of this campus are in pristine condition and ready to be utilized for your student’s arrival. Factors out of our control, such as weather conditions and other circumstances have delayed the opening of the new campus to January 2018.”

To be located at the southeast corner of Fuqua and Monroe, the campus was approved by voters in November 2014 as part of a $175 million bond package.

The new facility is needed to alleviate overcrowding at the area school, as Dobie has been at its maximum capacity for more than a decade.

When the new Blackhawk campus was constructed as part of a 2000 bond issue, it was designed to accommodate 3,000 students. A subsequent bond issue in 2004 increased student capacity by 525, bringing the total to 3,525.
Campus enrollment, however, topped 4,000 students at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

Last school year, the campus had 14 portable buildings, including 12 double-classroom buildings and two quad-classroom buildings.

In the fall of 2014, Dobie was named one of the 100 largest high schools in America. With a reported 3,452 students, Dobie ranked No. 88 on the list.
According to PISD officials, however, Dobie’s enrollment at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year was actually 3,708 students (1,005 freshmen, 994 sophomores, 887 juniors and 822 seniors). Using this figure, the school would have been ranked No. 56 on the list.

By 2018-2019, enrollment at Dobie is expected to reach 4,200. PISD officials expect the proposed campus to reduce enrollment at the primary campus to approximately 3,100-3,200 students, with a capacity for enrollment at the ninth-grade center of 1,000-1,100 students.

The facility will house only first year ninth-graders. Students will have the same academic and extracurricular opportunities as students on the main campus.

School officials are confident the postponement is in the students’ best interest.

“We certainly understand that this not ideal, but be assured that we will still be able to keep our three promises to each incoming freshman at J. Frank Dobie High School, which is to keep them safe, provide them with a high quality education and an ultimate high school experience,” Moses and Van Essen said in the notification letter. “We will continue to inform you of the progress and notify you of any changes during the fall semester. We do appreciate your patience and trust to do what is best for your students.”
Early College High School

This fall, Pasadena ISD will offer the Early College High School program at all five of its high school campuses.

The program allows students to earn both a high school diploma from Pasadena ISD and an associate degree from San Jacinto College.

ECHS puts students on the fast track to post-secondary and career opportunities while boosting student achievement and providing hands-on experience in high demand industries.

Students start taking college-level courses in the ninth grade. By their senior year, they can complete their high school requirements and focus on a full college schedule. Through ECHS, students can graduate with up to 62 college hours, which allows them to save money on college tuition and get ahead of the competition.

Students who are chosen to participate in the program must complete a rigorous application process involving interviews, letters of recommendation and proof of good standing. Though not limited to any student demographic, the Early College program targets students who may be the first in their family to attend college.

The Early College High School is part of the district’s “school-within-school model,” where students can engage in extracurricular activities, campus events and athletics at their campus while enrolled in the program. As a bonus, students have access to San Jacinto College’s campus libraries, tutoring facilities, writing centers and computer labs.

The district expanded the ECHS program following the success of the pilot program at PHS, which began in 2011. PHS and San Jacinto College graduated its third cohort of ECHS students last school year.

“The expansion of our ECHS program will allow Pasadena ISD to continue increasing access to higher education and career opportunities for students of all backgrounds. The more we connect students to the college-going culture, the better their chances are of being successful in high school, post-secondary opportunities and a career,” said Jennifer Boushley, ECHS district coordinator.
The Early College High School expansion project was made possible with funds from a $175.5 million School Bond issue passed in 2014, which provided roughly $18 million for ECHS programs. Construction is near completion.

These Early College High School programs are expected to graduate a total of 500 students per year with a high school diploma and an associate degree.

Open enrollment
For the first time in Pasadena ISD’s history, the district is accepting a limited number enrollment applications for students who reside outside the boundaries of the school district.

The children will be allowed to attend tuition-free, despite not having paid taxes to the school district.

PISD officials said the additional students will add revenue to the cash-strapped school district, as the state provides funding based on the district’s average daily attendance, or ADA.

School’s such as Thompson Intermediate and Dobie High School that are already at maximum capacity may opt out of the program.

The new measure will not require additional staff or any new portable buildings.

The program is open to students in pre-K through 12th grade. Applications are based on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The forms are available on the district’s website at www1.pasadenaisdorg and at the PISD Administration Building, located at 1515 Cherrybrook Lane, Pasadena, TX 77502. The office is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Parents must submit the following items along with the application:
• A copy of the student’s final report card
• Attendance report
• Conduct and discipline report
• If a student received Special Education services at their previous school, then the most recent ARD document is also required.

Each application will be evaluated by a panel of administrators, followed by a final review by the campus principal to determine acceptance into the program. All applicants will receive a letter of notification regarding their child’s acceptance status. Students who have been accepted will be able to attend PISD for the 2017-2018 school year.

For more information on the program, visit

METRO opens El Dorado Park & Ride

METRO will open a new Park & Ride location Monday, Aug. 28, at the intersection of El Dorado Boulevard and Glenwest Drive near the southbound lanes of the Gulf Freeway.

The facility will be the fifth in the general area, with others being located on Sabo (Fuqua Park & Ride), Kurland (South Point Park & Ride), Bay Area Boulevard (Bay Area Park & Ride) and Monroe (Monroe Park & Ride).

The new location was identified in 2003, as part of METRO’s Solutions referendum. It is designed to alleviate overcrowding at the other nearby Park & Ride locations.

The lot will also serve as a staging area for carpools and vanpools. It will accommodate users of the former Bay Area Park & Pool, which closed last year to make room for improvements along the Gulf Freeway.

The facility will provide commuter service for METRO customers traveling to downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

The new Park & Ride will include approximately 1,200 spaces and be monitored by surveillance cameras. It will also be regularly patrolled by METRO police.

METRO officials said benefits of the Park & Ride service include avoiding peak-hour traffic and being able to catch up on work, relaxation and sleep during commute time.

Regular Park & Ride trips will leave the El Dorado facility between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. Return trips in the afternoon from downtown will depart between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. In between those peak periods, METRO will provide trips every 50 minutes. In addition to the peak and midday services, METRO will also provide three evening trips from downtown at 7:35, 8:35 and 9:40 p.m. All service is weekday only.

For additional information, visit

HOV/HOT lanes
South Belt residents are also reminded to utilize METRO’s HOV/HOT lanes, which now run all the way to NASA Road 1 on the Gulf Freeway. Inbound vehicles may travel on the road from 5 to 10 a.m., while the road is open to outbound vehicles from 1 to 7 p.m.

Entrances are located just north of Dixie Farm Road and Clear Lake City Boulevard. Toll costs range from $1 to $6.50 for vehicles with less than two passengers. For more information, visit

PISD to hold special election on taxes

When it became evident the Texas State Legislature was not going to address funding for Texas public schools, the Pasadena Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved an item calling for a 13 cent Tax Ratification Election (TRE) for the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate.

A TRE is a special election called by the board of trustees asking voters to approve a tax rate that is above the current $1.07 M&O rate.

The TRE gives the district an opportunity to maximize funding potential, as the 13 cent increase will generate approximately $16 million from local property taxes, in which the state will match those funds with an additional $20.7 million, totaling $36.7 million for M&O.

The Pasadena ISD tax rate is composed of two parts: The M&O tax rate and the Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate.

M&O pays for day-to-day district operations, such as payroll, utilities and maintenance of schools and facilities. The I&S is used to make payments to district bonds that fund construction. The I&S tax rate will not be raised.

Pasadena ISD is holding the TRE for the following reasons:
• Remain competitive with surrounding districts in retaining and recruiting teachers and staff
• Continue innovative instructional programs
• Address student growth
• Offset costs from unfunded state mandates
• Offset the rising cost of utilities, salaries, fuel and medical insurance
• Maximize state funding

Over the years, Pasadena ISD has demonstrated strong fiscal accountability. The district has received a “Superior” rating from the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) for the past 14 consecutive years.

“It seems like we have reached a point where we have no choice but to follow suit of other districts in the area and ask our voters to increase the tax rate,” said PISD Superintendent Dr. DeeAnn Powell.

PISD has not raised taxes in over a decade and has maintained one of the lowest tax rates in the region, Powell added.

“PISD is unable to absorb the burden of the decreasing state funding for public education, which statewide is at an all-time low of 38 percent,” Powell said.

If the TRE is passed, the additional funds generated will help keep Pasadena ISD from depleting their reserves and help maintain the strong financial status.

Further, the average taxable value of a home in Pasadena ISD is approximately $130,000, and the impact would be an increase of $9.30 per month, or more specifically, $0.33 per day.

Homeowners over the age of 65 or disabled persons whose taxes are frozen due to an approved exemption will not have a tax increase.

If the TRE does not pass, Pasadena ISD will not benefit from an additional $20.7 million in state funding. In addition, Pasadena ISD will operate on a deficit budget. Budget cuts to educational programs and staff would become inevitable.

The special election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 7. Early voting is Monday, Oct. 23, through Friday, Nov. 3.


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