Schooling the Ward : a phenomenological case study on the impact of gentrification on neighborhood public schools in the Greater Third Ward Community of Houston, Texas.
Gentrification changes the construct and function of communities and cities. The most notable changes brought on by this phenomenon are often connected to affordable housing access, impact to small businesses, and infrastructure. What is often not considered is how gentrification affects the lives of a gentrifying community’s younger residents and the neighborhood entities that most impact their lives, such as neighborhood schools. Though the gentrification process, or what some suggest is redevelopment, can include the building of new schools or renovations to existing campuses, other important factors sometimes remain unaddressed. These factors include programmatic offerings and curriculum consistent with the shifts in the community’s resident population needs and desires for academic programming access. More pressing and pervasive factors are the shifts in influence and autonomous power that can lead residents to feel restricted in their school choices and less connected to the communities they call home. Focusing on two historically connected campuses of the gentrifying Greater Third Ward Community of Houston, Texas (Greater Third Ward), this study takes a qualitative approach. This study is guided by a multilayered framework that first identifies and acknowledges the presence of gentrification and follows with pragmatic and social constructivism approaches that allow for the development of understanding. Through the contribution of 19 questionnaire participants and three follow-up interviews with Greater Third Ward residents, and families making enrollment decisions, this study elevates the voices, lived experiences, and academic access interests of an evolving community. The implications for this study are far reaching. History has shown that from one country to another, state-to-state, city-to-city, and community-to-community, gentrification is a nuanced, yet replicable process. A constant in this process is an impact to K-12 education and schools originally developed for these now gentrifying communities and the manner by which they continue to function as part of the community construct. By acknowledging and exploring the voices of established and new residents of a gentrifying community, this study surfaces themes that add to the needed dialogue around resident expectations and desires as they relate to historically connected public school campuses in gentrifying communities.