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For many students at Furr High School, computer and internet use is limited to the time they spend at school.
"The vast majority of our students and their families do not own a home computer," says Furr Principal Bertie Simmons. But now, Simmons’ students will have access to a computer lab inside a local church that they can use in the evenings to finish their schoolwork or recover lost credit hours.
Thanks to a partnership with the North Shore Community Fellowship of Faith Church, students can visit the new HISD Homework Help and Credit Recovery Lab every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. inside the church located at 444 Maxey Road. Furr teachers will also be available during those hours to offer tutoring services and homework help.
"The church is near several apartment complexes where our students live, so most will be able to walk to the lab in the evening and get the extra help they need," says Simmons.
Students will also have access to the district's online credit recovery software, known as Apex Learning. Simmons and her staff have already begun talking to students who live in the area and could benefit from the lab. “With students who are struggling, we need to be as imaginative as possible about ways to help them. I have been working with the community and was thrilled when we identified this location as a place where students can get help."
When she took over as principal, Simmons says, Furr was known as a “drop-out factory.” The school’s graduation rate was 39 percent when she arrived in 2000. Since then, she has implemented strategies to help students earn their diplomas, and the graduation rate increased to 87 percent in 2010—the most recent year for which data is available.
Furr, like all of HISD’s high schools, has a Grad Lab where students can work online at their own pace to recover course credits and earn their diplomas. The Grad Labs, launched as part of Dr. Grier’s dropout recovery strategy, are equipped with the same Apex Learning Digital Curriculum that will be used at the Homework Help and Credit Recovery Lab. In 2010–2011, HISD students used the Apex system to recover 7,000 course credits.
HISD Superintendent of Schools Terry B. Grier says he is thrilled about the new partnership. “I am excited about strengthening and expanding our collaborations with our community partners, and that includes our faith-based partners,” he said. “Because they can reach children when, sometimes, other groups can’t. Some of these students might not come to school, but many of them will still have an attachment to their church.”