By BOBBY HORN JR.
HOUSTONThe start of school just got a little more complicated for North Forest ISD students.
Forest Brook students will join their classmates at Smiley this fall as the district works to repair damage at the high school.
At the start of the day on Tuesday, July 17, 2007, campus and district officials discovered that Forest Brook had been vandalized sometime early Tuesday morning or Monday night, Denise Walker, district spokesperson said.
The campus, located at 7525 Tidwell Road, was broken into and fire hoses located on the third floor were turned on. The fire hoses were left turned on causing damage to all three levels of the building.
During an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees on July 17, voted to move the Forest Brook staff and students to Smiley, saying that the damage was too extensive to be repaired before classes start on Aug. 27.
To date, there is no estimate of the amount of damage or how long Forest Brook students and staff will remain on the M.B. Smiley campus.
The school district has contracted with Texas General Construction for restoration and construction services.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Houston Police Department and North Forest ISD is cooperating with that investigation, Walker said.
Last week the school district released a video tape to the media taken from a surveillance camera with hopes that the vandals might be identified. There have been rumors circulating around the district that the vandals were let into the building by a district employee.
Walker said that she had not heard that rumor and referred other questions regarding the investigation to the Houston Police Department.
Walker said that the administration is in the process of putting together brochures and FAQs (frequently asked questions) sheets for parents to address their questions about the move. A series of public meetings will also be held this month to address the move. The district said they would like to mail these out to patrons on July 30. The dates of the meetings had not been approved at press time.
The district will also use an automated telephone message system to alert patrons of the changes and upcoming meetings.
Despite the move, Walker said that day to day operations for each school will remain separated. Each school will have their own staff, she said, class officers and representatives will serve their respective schools and extracurricular activities will remain separated.
Each school will also maintain their own separate athletic program during the consolidation.
At the end of the 2006-2007 school year Smiley High School underwent a series of security modifications. The new and tighter security was in response to a rumor that a weapon was on campus.
While no weapon was found, the district did ban the use of backpacks and lockers during the final two weeks of the semester. Students were also required to pass through a metal detector before entering the building.
The district has not said what security measures they will keep once school resumes or if additional security will be added to Smiley in response to additional students on campus.
By BOBBY HORN JR.