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Central High School in Beaumont, Texas, will close after sustaining significant storm damage.

Hurricane damage has Beaumont (Texas) district trying to decide if it should have 2 or 3 high schools

Central High has been closed since September because of mold and other damage from Hurricane Harvey

The Beaumont (Texas) district needs to decide by the end of January how many high schools it will have next fall, as the condition of Central High School, which closed almost two months ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, is still being assessed.

The Beaumont Enterprise reports that the delay in deciding Central High's fate has left students in limbo and stalled a long-planned districtwide rezoning process.

Superintendent John Frossard says administrators are still assessing the costs, necessary repairs and insurance payments for the school.

District officials are under a tight deadline to decide on its high schools if they plan to maintain their athletic teams. The state's University Interscholastic League is set to realign schools based on enrollment in February. If Beaumont plans to close Central and double the size of Ozen High, the district will need to turn in enrollment numbers by the end of January, at the latest.

A combined Central and Ozen, both of which are 5A schools, would likely move the campus up to 6A.

Assistant Superintendent Shannon Allen told the school board that declining enrollment trends may make it difficult to sustain a third high school.

The district's enrollment has decreased each of the past five years. Administrators have attributed some of the drop of about 300 students this school year to storm displacement.

Having two high schools would save on operating costs, and larger schools could offer more academic and extracurricular options, administrators say. West Brook High, which has about 2,400 students, offers more Advanced Placement and Career and Technical Education classes than either Ozen or Central.

The primary option for dropping to two campuses would move Central students to Ozen and combine the schools. That would likely necessitate adding portable buildings and eventually expanding to accommodate more than 2,200 students on a campus that now houses about 1,100.

Repairing "extensive" damage at Central High could be another option. Central's main building has been closed since Sept. 22 because of mold, leaks and rotten floors caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Ninth-graders remain in a separate building on the campus, and sophomores through seniors are at the Austin Innovation Center, the former Austin Middle School.

Options for maintaining three high schools include keeping Central students split between Central and Austin; moving Central to Smith Middle School, the former French High School; or constructing a new building on the existing campus. That would require passing a bond issue.


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