Board should choose to keep school of choice separate


Comal ISD

The board of trustees received a proposal Thursday to move a high school of choice to Spring Branch Middle.

Joey Clark, Staff Writer

Inside the halls of Spring Branch Middle, students keep to the two only opened wings of the school while the sixth grade wing remains abandoned, still reminiscent of the hundreds of kids who once graced the linoleum floors two years ago.

That hall, though, might see action once again if the board approves putting  a High School of Choice in the building, mixing high school students on the same campus with middle schoolers.

The school board is considering the idea so students reluctant about attending a HSOC could remove distance as a reason. Current Memorial Early College High School students make the drive to New Braunfels, often making 30- to 40-minute trips back and forth every day. A new addition at Spring Branch could eliminate the time issue. However, parents raise concerns about their middle schoolers’ safety and school organization. 

Spring Branch should not open up its doors to HSOC students. 

Yes, the building is emptier since middle schoolers in the Timberwood Park area opted to attend the new Pieper Ranch Middle School, but the campus is too small to encompass the hundreds of students it eventually could sign on.

Facilities aren’t nearly enough in size or quality for more students. While Spring Branch’s library is big enough to cater to hundreds of middle schoolers, it is not extensive enough for the high schoolers needing the library for research, SAT practice or study space.

Before Pieper Ranch opened, overcrowding was a problem in the Spring Branch cafeteria, and subjugating students to this once again would be a crime. Tightly-packed halls resembled Los Angeles-level traffic, and friend groups became a lot friendlier as lunch tables overlapped from lack of space.

Organizational structure is another can of worms waiting to burst. HSOC and Spring Branch will run on separate schedules with only Spring Branch utilizing the bell alarms. Envision the high school students moving to another class while a middle school class tries to take a test in silence. Coordinating at least four separate lunches will demand counselors invent more minutes in the day.

Already, staff vehicles are cramped in Spring Branch’s limited parking lot. School events such as band concerts and dance competitions leave parents fighting for spots. Double scheduling at the school could lead to a parking nightmare with cars lined out in the street. Though additional parking is included in the proposal, the question arises about where to find the space. Spring Branch just might have to follow in Smithson Valley’s footsteps and develop its own “Africa” parking lot.

The decision also will not be popular with middle school parents concerned their kids could be subjected to bullying from the older students. Assumptions shouldn’t be made, of course, that all high schoolers are delinquents and therefore are not respectful enough to share the space with their younger peers. But that’s not to say bullying won’t happen. High schoolers have developed a reputation for not always treating each other with the utmost respect, and when around younger students, it’s even easier for hazing and peer pressure to start.

The proposal isn’t one to completely dismiss, but Spring Branch would need renovation to take on HSOC high schoolers. The “window of opportunity” of Spring Branch’s recent major vacancy is one best left closed for the perceived future.