Founded in 1959, S. P. Waltrip High School is a public magnet school named after Steven Pool Waltrip, who was Houston’s superintendent of schools in 1910. The school served newly-developed post-World War II subdivisions and relieved overcrowding at Reagan High School. Today, Waltrip serves more than 1,500 students with its Research & Technology Magnet program and its Vanguard Neighborhood program.
As a magnet school within HISD, Waltrip 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.
Waltrip High School is located on the northwest side of Loop 610 near T.C. Jester Park. The surrounding area is dominated by small businesses. The school is a three-story, 90-classroom building equipped with laboratories, common areas, a pool, and an auditorium. The original building was built in 1959, but it has been remodeled and expanded. Additions have included air-conditioning, an academic wing, a library, and a counseling center. The school also has outdoor fields and courts for athletics.
The admissions process at Waltrip is divided into two cagetories: zoned and magnet. The magnet program is available to students living anywhere within HISD.
Students who are zoned to Waltrip (see map below) are guaranteed admission to the school; they need only register as incoming students. However, this is not the same as guaranteed admission to the magnet program. If zoned students wish to participate in the magnet program rather than Waltrip’s standard academic program, it is necessary for them to complete the magnet admissions process.
For the magnet program, Waltrip uses the general Houston high school magnet application, which can be submitted online or printed from the home page of the school’s website; it is due in January. The following supplementary materials must be submitted along with the application: the previous year’s final report card, the first grading period of the current year’s report card, the student’s Test Record Card, and proof of HISD residency.
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Waltrip’s Magnet program focuses on research and technology and is based on the idea that discovery “teaches the individual how to learn rather than simply what to learn.” The academic tracks offered at Waltrip include On-Track, Honors/Pre-AP, Dual Enrollment, Advanced Placement, and Magnet.
Students now matriculating will graduate under the new Foundation High School Program. (Students who matriculated in 2013 or before may choose to graduate under this program or the old requirements.) The Foundation High School Program’s basic requirements are as follows: four credits of English, three credits of math, three credits of science, three credits of social studies, one credit of PE, two credits of the same language other than English, one credit of fine arts, and five credits of electives, for a total of 22 credits.
Most students who graduate under the Foundation High School Program will take one or more “endorsements” in addition to the basic curricular requirements. An endorsement is essentially the high school equivalent of a college major. Students who take an endorsement must complete 26 credits, including a fourth credit each of math and science and any additional credits needed to fulfill the endorsement’s curricular requirements.
There are five possible endorsements: STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary. Waltrip offers all five.
To earn an endorsement in STEM, a student must complete a coherent sequence of courses from CTE courses within the STEM cluster, computer science, math, science, or any two of these four.
To earn an endorsement in Business and Industry, a student must complete a coherent sequence of courses from a focus area in CTE, or English electives, or technology applications, or a combination of any of these three.
To earn an endorsement in Public Services, a student must complete elective credits in JROTC or a coherent sequence of courses from the CTE focus areas in Education & Training; Government & Public Administration; Health Science; Human Services; or Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security.
To earn an endorsement in Arts and Humanities, a student must complete a coherent sequence of courses in social studies, a language other than English, two levels in two languages other than English, ASL, the fine arts, or English electives not counted under Business & Industry.
To earn an endorsement in Multidisciplinary, a student must complete a coherent sequence of four courses related to preparation for entering the workforce; or one advanced course in each of the four core areas; or four AP, IB, or dual credit courses from the core areas, economics, languages other than English, or the fine arts.
A student who qualifies for at least one endorsement also qualifies for the Distinguished Level of Achievement supplementary endorsement, which is a necessary prerequisite for in-state college admission under the top 10% rule. Students may also earn Performance Acknowledgements for noteworthy career-focused or academic achievements, including qualifying scores on AP and IB exams and the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.
Waltrip also requires that seniors apply to at least one 4-year or 2-year college or trade school in order to graduate.
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.
Waltrip High School offers French and Spanish. A minimum of two credits of a foreign language are required for graduation. Students also have language-learning and language enrichment opportunities beyond the classroom, including foreign language exchange programs, honor societies, clubs, and competitions.
The fine arts courses offered at Waltrip include Basic and Advanced Art, Design, Band, Dance, and Theater. Students are required to use “a variety of media to create artwork through problem-solving projects.”
As technology is one of the foci of Waltrip’s magnet program, it is heavily integrated into the curriculum. Magnet students are required to take multiple courses in one of two focus areas, Network Systems/ Computer Programming or Interactive Media.
Computer facilities are made available to students for academic use. Students are not to bring personal laptops to school. Cell phones are permitted on campus, but they must be turned off and stored in backpacks or lockers during the day.
Waltrip High School offers more than 30 student clubs. Notable examples include Academic Decathlon, Robotics, Chess, Foreign Language, Speech and Debate, Teen Court, and Theater.
The school fields teams across eleven sports. Football and baseball are available for boys; softball and volleyball are available for girls. Cross country, swim, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, and track and field are offered for both boys and girls. Students may also participate in cheer and dance, though these programs do not compete interscholastically.
Parents at Waltrip High School can join the PTA to volunteer and help with fundraisers. In order to volunteer through the PTA, parents must first be approved through HISD’s Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) 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.