Local charter school met with oppositionl
The future charter school to be located in the Riverstone Ranch subdivision has drawn the ire of residents in the community who fear the school of choice may bring unwanted traffic and crime to the area.
To be located on Riverstone Ranch Road at Kirksage, the Elite College Prep Academy–Riverstone, which will eventually serve pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, is tentatively set to open for class by fall 2016.
“This area already has a problem with traffic because of the 10 or 11 schools located very near by,” said Riverstone Ranch resident Sylvia Rod-riguez in a letter to the Leader. “The Houston Gateway Academy will only add to the disruption of an already bad traffic flow for the subdivisions on both sides of Blackhawk Boulevard and to the right and left of Riverstone Ranch.”
While there are several schools in the area (Dobie High School, Melillo Middle School and Moore and South Belt elementaries, all located within one mile of the proposed campus), the existing Pasadena Independent School District campuses all have staggered start times to avoid overlapping congestion. It is unsure at the moment what measures would be taken by Gateway to avoid such problems.
The same level of displeasure has not been displayed in regards to proposed PISD campuses, as the Leader has received zero complaints about the future intermediate school to be constructed in the area, pending the result of a November bond election.
The Leader has received multiple calls from residents who are under the misguided impression that the school is for troubled or at-risk students, possibly adding to area crime.
“At the annual HOA meetings, the constable’s report on crime has always indicated that Riverstone Ranch had a low crime rate,” said Rodriguez. “Now because of construction of the Houston Gateway Academy in the near future, there is a fear of an increase in the crime rate for the whole area.”
Contrarily, the school will actually be held to a higher performance standard than traditional public schools as a requirement to receive its public funding.
Gateway’s other campuses have received several academic honors. In multiple years, Houston Gateway Academy has been recognized for outstanding academic performance by the Texas Education Agency and has received the Texas Honor Circle District Award from the Texas Comptroller’s office. It has also been rated as Exemplary by the TEA multiple years.
Further, unlike other public schools, all students and faculty will be subject to random drug screens, Gateway officials said.
Despite the Leader publishing multiple articles on the proposed school over the past five years, some residents feel they were not properly notified and should have had a say in the matter.
“We also feel that the property or properties sold was without the knowledge of the residents of the subdivisions in the area. There was no knowledge of what was proposed until the sale was final and a story was in the South Belt newspaper as an article for the area,” said Rodriguez. “The residents of Riverstone Ranch and neighboring subdivisions in the area are mostly working class citizens of Houston and just did not see or read the article that appeared in the South Belt newspaper having to do with the construction of another school in the Riverstone Ranch subdivision and the effects that construction will have on the traffic flow in the area.”
While the law does not require a public notification of such a project, the Gateway endeavor has also been on the Clear Brook City Municipal Utility District’s monthly agenda on multiple occasions.
In an attempt to halt construction of the school, a group of Riverstone residents are currently collecting petition signatures. At press time, more than 100 signatures had been collected (many of which are from residents who admitted they were misinformed about the proposed school).
National Night Out 2014 will take place Tuesday, Oct. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Founded in 1983 by Matt Peskin of National Association of Town Watch in Wynnewood, Pa., the event is aimed at preventing crime by encouraging neighbors to communicate with each other, as well as local law enforcement officers.
Last year’s campaign involved citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials from 15,000 communities. More than 37 million people participated in NNO 2013.
The event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Along with the traditional display of porch lights and front porch vigils, NNO will be celebrated by neighborhoods and communities with a variety of events and activities such as block parties, cookouts, parades, flashlight walks, contests, youth programs and visits from local police.
Now in its 31st year, the annual event took place in August in years past. Organizers have since changed the NNO’s Texas date to give residents an opportunity to enjoy cooler weather.
The Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Harris County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office will once again be participating in the yearly program.
South Belt residents within the city limits who are planning on having a block party should contact Houston police Officer Richard Buitron at 281-218-3800 or Buitron@Houstonpolice.org. Residents outside of the city limits having parties should contact Harris County Constable Precinct 2 Chris Diaz’s office at 713-477-2766. The sooner the law enforcement agencies are aware of a NNO party location, the better chance an officer can come by and visit.
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