River Oaks Elementary (ROE), an HISD Vanguard magnet and Vanguard Neighborhood school, first opened its doors in 1929 with support from Ima Hogg, Agnese Carter, and Pat Houston. Following a decline in enrollment after court-ordered integration of HISD schools, ROE became a magnet-only school in 1986. The Neighborhood Vanguard program was reopened in 1996 due to pressure from local parents who were impressed by the Vanguard magnet program’s success. In 2005, ROE became an authorized IB World School with an IB Primary Years Programme.
As a magnet school within HISD, River Oaks Elementary has no religious affiliation. Students’ religious convictions do not factor into admissions, and the curriculum does not include theological material. While there is no institutionalized prayer in the school, there is a daily minute of silence during which students may choose to pray. Additionally, absences due to religious holidays do not count against a student’s record, though the student is still responsible for make-up work.
ROE is located at the intersection of San Felipe and Kirby in River Oaks, one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods. The school building was designed in the 1920’s by architect Harry D. Payne, who gave it an exterior reminiscent of French colonial architecture. The school building is 7,570 square feet. A new addition was built in 2007 to replace temporary buildings. Alumni are currently raising $3.4 million for an expanded library and technology center. Other facilities include a 40,000-square-foot Nature Center where students “can observe indigenous wildlife and plants in an outdoor lab setting.” Outside, there are playgrounds, courts, and a large field.
ROE’s admissions process is split into two different types: zoned and magnet.
Students zoned to ROE are guaranteed acceptance once their parents have submitted the proper documentation, as follows: current proof of address, a copy of the parent’s current driver’s license showing the same address, the student’s birth certificate or passport, the student’s immunization records, the student’s social security card (if applicable), parental proof of custody (in cases of divorce), and the previous year’s final report card and test scores (if enrolling in 1st through 5th grade). Students enrolling in kindergarten must be 5 years old by September 1st.
Parents of students living outside ROE’s zone must apply through the HISD Vanguard magnet process. This requires a completed online application and the submission of supplementary materials to the school. For applicants entering kindergarten, the required supplementary materials are as follows: proof of age 5 by September 1, proof of HISD residency, a parental recommendation form, and a statement of preference for testing dates. Kindergarten applicants are required to sit for the NNAT-2 test, which HISD uses to determine students’ Gifted/Talented status. For applicants entering grades 1-5, the required supplementary materials are as follows: the student’s G/T identification matrix and G/T status report, the end-of-semester report card for the current semester (for applicants to grades 1-2) or the previous year’s final report card (for applicants to grades 3-5), current Stanford/Aprenda or ITBS scores, current NNAT-2 scores, one teacher recommendation form, and proof of HISD residency.
Students are selected through a lottery process after applications have closed. Zoned students must also apply if they wish to participate in the Vanguard magnet program.
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All students participate in the IB Primary Years Programme. Additionally, the Vanguard Magnet Program serves zoned and non-zoned students who qualify as gifted and talented.
Students take classes in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies daily. Ancillary classes include PE, music, art, science, and Spanish. Reading comprehension is reinforced through ROE’s Literacy Plan, which is based on the student’s current level and uses the Words Their Way spelling program to concentrate on word study rather than sight spelling. While teachers primarily use the EveryDay Math program, they supplement mathematics education with EveryDay Counts, Envision, First in Math, and websites. Additionally, students learn how to conduct research through the IIM (Independent Investigation Method).
Accommodations are available for students with special needs who meet the requirements for admission. If the parents already have documentation about the student’s special needs, the school will need a copy of that documentation. After receiving the documentation, the school will set up an annual ARD meeting that the parents, the student, an administrator, a core subject teacher, a special education teacher or 504 representative, and an HISD advocate will attend to discuss the specific modifications necessary for the student and to create an individualized education plan (IEP) for the student. Every teacher will receive a copy of the modifications for the student after they are set in the ARD meeting.
If the parents want to request modifications for their child, then the special education teacher will give the student’s teachers paperwork to document the student’s behavior and any modifications the teacher uses for the student. After 6 weeks of documentation, the teachers will turn in the paperwork, and the special education teacher or 504 representative will call a meeting similar to an ARD meeting. If the meeting determines that the student needs accommodation, then the school will have documentation of the student’s special needs and will follow the same procedures as above.
Students attend Spanish as an ancillary class. Students can also take classes in Chinese and conversational Spanish through ROE Connections, an after-school program.
Students attend art and music classes in their ancillary rotation. Through ROE Connections, an after-school program, interested students can elect to take additional classes in multimedia, clay pottery, “Fun with Fabric,” origami, and sculpture.
No information concerning ROE’s technology policy or classroom technology is available at this time.
ROE offers an after-school program called ROE Connections with a variety of enrichment classes. The program is available as Half Time (3:15-4:45) or Full Time (3:15-6:00). Classes are taught by ROE faculty, ROE parents, and professionals, and they are grouped by age or skill level and limited to a certain number of students. Past offerings have included several art courses, Camp Einstein, Chess, Chinese Conversation, Creative Chefs, Freshmen Robotics, Glee Club, Piano, Guitar, Improv & Creative Drama, Mad Science, Math Fun, Model Cars and Airplanes, Musical Theatre, Tennis, TGA Premier Junior Golf, Violin, and Voice Lessons.
Students might also enjoy Movie Night, field trips, holiday parties, or participating in Odyssey of the Mind.
While PE is offered during school hours to all students, ROE has no interscholastic sports teams. However, children have the option to explore different types of exercise in the after-school program. Past offerings include Ballet/Tap, Baseball, Basketball, Cheerleading, Fencing, Fitness for Kids!, Football Fundamentals, Hip-Hop & Break Dance, Jazz/Funk, Karate, Lacrosse, Latin American Move & Groove, Outdoor Sports, Soccer Clinics/Footskills, Tumbling Gymnastics, Volleyball, Yoga for Children, and Zumba for Kids.
Parents can join the PTO to learn about volunteer opportunities, help create the yearbook, or chaperon fieldtrips. The PTO organizes book fairs, carnivals, Earth Day, fun runs, summer play dates, and more. Additionally, parents can become “Room Parents” or garden at the Nature Center. In order to volunteer through the PTO, parents must first be approved through HISD’s Volunteers in Public Schools program.
The school also has a Shared Decision Making Committee, through which interested parents can join with teachers and community members to advise the principal on important administrative matters.