The final three of those community meetings were held Nov. 12 at Eastside Memorial Early College High School, Metz Elementary School and Sims Elementary School. The district has proposed closing Metz and moving students into the modernized Sanchez Elementary School, and closing Sims to move the students to modernized Norman Elementary School.
The other two schools proposed to close are Pease Elementary School downtown and Brooke Elementary School on East Fourth Street. Meetings were held at those schools Nov. 7.
Community members and parents at Eastside had questions ranging from broad—such as what will happen to the facilities when the students and teachers are no longer there—to the specific—such as how AISD will periodically look at its feeder patterns and boundary alignments.
Eliza Fanuel, president of the Johnston Terrace Neighborhood Association, which surrounds Eastside, said she believes schools are the best use of the buildings.
“What are we going to have in our community if we don’t have a school? What does that look like? You’ve got four schools here, and they’re all going away. What is a community without a school?” Fanuel asked.
AISD officials have said the school changes are necessary to both reduce deferred maintenance costs in a district that has seen steady enrollment declines and to move more students out of aging facilities to modernized spaces. Annika Olson, policy coordinator at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas, asked officials at the Nov. 12 Eastside community meeting if the district could design spaces for a smaller number of students rather than eliminating schools.
Drew Johnson, AISD’s director of bond planning and controls, responded by saying the district has prioritized other items, such as staff raises, over shrinking the size of its schools.
“In my mind, this is a choice of values—what we prioritize and how we make hard decisions,” Johnson said.
The four proposed closures are among a group of scenarios that feature facility and programming changes that the AISD board of trustees will consider at its Nov. 18 meeting. Initially, the district released a proposal considering 12 school closures in September. While those additional eight closures are not off the table, the district has categorized them as needing more planning and community engagement.
The district announced its Nov. 18 board of trustees meeting is scheduled to begin an hour earlier than normal due to the expected number of public speakers. That meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at district headquarters, located at 1111 W. Sixth St., Austin.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the changed start time of the Nov. 18 board of trustees meeting.