May 30, 2024 - News

SAISD families face last day of school before closures

A school bus parked outside of a brick elementary school.

Family members and alumni walk into Forbes Elementary School for the last time. Photo: Megan Stringer/Axios

As Muriel Forbes Elementary School prepares to close its doors for good, the principal is marking the day with a talent show.

Why it matters: Thursday is the last day of school at San Antonio Independent School District. For more than 3,000 students at 13 campuses, including Forbes, it's their last day together before they transition elsewhere in the fall.

The big picture: SAISD is closing 10 elementary schools and three early childhood centers after Thursday, with two more buildings to follow after construction is finished at schools that will welcome the new students.

  • District officials have said it's necessary as they face declining enrollment, which helps determine school budgets in Texas, and other financial setbacks.
  • They hope that consolidating resources in fewer buildings will lead to better services, though some families have questioned what it will mean for services like special education.

What they're saying: Klaudia Hidalgo, who has worked at SAISD for a decade and as Forbes principal for a year, supports the closures. The tiny Forbes — enrollment 158, a 48% decrease from 2018 — does not have the resources it needs, she tells Axios.

  • The Southeast Side school only has a counselor and a librarian for part of the week, and doesn't have an instructional coach for teachers at all.
  • "The kids need a counselor every day," Hidalgo says. "Their crises don't take a day off."

By the numbers: Douglass Elementary School on the East Side saw its enrollment drop 60% from 2018 to 2023, to 158 students.

  • The West Side Huppertz Elementary School saw a drop of about 26% over that time.
  • Both will close after Thursday.

Zoom in: At a recent farewell event at Forbes, current and former teachers and students said goodbye to the building and swapped memories while flipping through decades-old scrapbooks.

  • The school was known as a tight-knit, family-oriented neighborhood school. The original building opened in 1957.
  • Several generations of family members attended over the years.
Women look over documents at a cafeteria lunch table.
Families flipping through scrapbooks last week. Photo: Megan Stringer/Axios

That's the case for cousins Emily Torres and John Cadena, who tell Axios they had parents and siblings who attended Forbes as well.

  • Cadena's fifth-grade teacher at Forbes was the one who encouraged his interest in math — and now he's a physicist.
  • He hoped to send his future children to Forbes one day.
  • "It's really sad, the amount of public schools that are closing," Cadena tells Axios.

Bonnie Harker, a former teacher at Forbes, will never forget the small school — in part because it's where her husband proposed to her 25 years ago.

  • Her then-fiance knew she loved the children she taught and proposed on a school stage on Valentine's Day.
  • Some of the students even attended the wedding.

What's next: Students whose schools are closing and whose families chose to keep them in the district will attend a newly assigned home campus or a Choice School or Magnet Program.

  • The district is looking to lease the shuttered school buildings to nonprofits and will launch a request for proposals with the help of a citizen panel.

The bottom line: At the final talent show honoring the school, students will perform skits as a class or in groups, Hidalgo says. She hopes they will enjoy the day and each other's company.

  • "It's just a fun thing to put the bow on saying goodbye to Forbes," she says.
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