Details are sparse on Waco Independent School District’s idea to build an in-district charter system with Prosper Waco to save five schools from possible closure.

But seven upcoming community meetings between Saturday and Jan. 25 will give parents and residents a chance to hear more and ask questions about the concept and other possible recommendations before an official plan is presented to the school board for approval the following week.

Prosper Waco officials will be at each of the meetings, but only to take in the feedback, Prosper Waco spokeswoman Christina Helmick said Wednesday.

“We’re not running anything. We’re just there to listen and support the district in whatever they need and whatever capacity they need Prosper Waco to step into,” Helmick said. “Until the board really approves anything, we’re just going to support and listen and be ready once the board approves the plan Nelson puts in front of them.”

The nonprofit, which typically organizes collaboration between other groups around specific goals, does not have a clear picture of the role it would play in the district’s operation. It is “waiting on the green light” from school board members before taking further steps, Helmick said.

But the partnership would allow Waco ISD to negotiate a contract with Prosper Waco to oversee operations of the five schools, if they fail state standards again this year, by coordinating wrap-around services from other nonprofits to help students succeed, Superintendent A. Marcus Nelson has said previously.

Last month, Nelson said he planned to recommend the partnership to the board Jan. 25 as the best way to keep Alta Vista Elementary School, Brook Avenue Elementary School, J.H. Hines Elementary School, G.W. Carver Middle School and Indian Spring Middle School open another two years. The plan would be unnecessary if schools pass state standards this year.

Each campus failed state academic standards for five consecutive years or more, which leaves them open to closure by the state if they do not pass this May. Overall results of state exams will be out in August. To avoid the possibility of schools closing or a board of managers replacing the school board, the district has to submit its alternative plan to the state by March 1.

The seven upcoming public meetings are the district’s second round of community gatherings to get input on a plan since October. Nelson or a member of his cabinet will be speaking to attendees at the meetings. Waco ISD officials are also expected to give an update on the struggling campuses at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

“This week, I’ll be making some recommendations to our school board to make sure that those campuses remain open and continue to serve the students in their neighborhoods,” Nelson wrote in an email to parents Tuesday. “Those recommendations are based on your feedback, and these meetings will be a chance for you to hear more about the plan, ask questions, share your thoughts and participate in the transformation.”

The meeting schedule is as follows:

  • Noon Saturday: Two simultaneous meetings will be held at J.H. Hines Elementary School, 301 Garrison St. and at the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 915 La Salle Ave.
  • 6 p.m. Monday: Campus meetings will be held at Alta Vista Elementary School, 3637 Alta Vista Drive; Brook Avenue Elementary School, 720 Brook Ave.; Indian Spring Middle School, 500 N. University Parks Drive; and a joint session for J.H. Hines Elementary and G.W. Carver Middle schools will be at the city of Waco Multi-purpose Facility, 1020 Elm Ave.
  • 6 p.m. Tuesday: A meeting will be held at South Waco Elementary School, 2104 Gurley Lane.

“I feel strongly that decisions about the future of our schools should be made locally here in Waco, not left up to officials in Austin or Washington, D.C.” Nelson wrote to parents. “I hope that you agree and will join in the conversation at one or more of the meetings later this month.”

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