T.A. Brown among Austin ISD’s first wave of modernized campuses

The modernized T.A. Brown Elementary School campus opened on Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
The modernized T.A. Brown Elementary School campus opened on Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper

The modernized T.A. Brown Elementary School campus opened on Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper

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Before its modernized campus opened in January, T.A. Brown Elementary School had abruptly closed in 2016 after AISD found extensive damage to the school's concrete floors. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
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T.A. Brown Elementary School Principal Veronica Sharp cuts the ribbon to commemorate the opening of the school's modernized campus Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
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Fifth grade students at T.A. Brown Elementary School sing 'Count on Me' by Bruno Mars during the opening ceremony of the school's modernized campus on Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
When the new T.A. Brown Elementary School campus opened Jan. 8, students walked in through a new entryway, took a left by the new “learning stairs”—a communal space with multicolored stairs and a pull-down screen—and walked down the hall to a celebration ceremony in the cafeteria, where there is a new demonstration kitchen where they will be able to learn about sustainable food.

The new amenities are examples of “modernized” school campuses, and 18 more are scheduled to open within the next few years. For nearly half of those students walking into the new building—about 250 of the 520, according to Principal Veronica Sharp—it was their first time attending classes in anything but a portable structure.

T.A. Brown closed suddenly and indefinitely in 2016 after extensive damage was found to the school’s concrete floor beneath classrooms, the cafeteria and administrative offices. Students, teachers and staff bounced around, first to Reilly Elementary School and the Allen Elementary School campus, then to portable sites at Barrington Elementary School and Webb Primary School.

When the new $30.8 million T.A. Brown campus opened this year, Webb Primary’s community merged with T.A. Brown’s. Petra Ocampo, a first-grade teacher who started this year at T.A. Brown after seven years at Webb Primary School, said tasks as simple as moving from place to place were tricky in the portables on a rainy day.

“We did have individual student umbrellas. Sometimes we didn’t have enough, so we’d have to share,” Ocampo said. “The whole process of having the students open up the umbrellas, bringing them to the place they had to go, placing them down. It’s a whole thing you have to teach them and practice, and it takes time.”

Menchaca Elementary School in Southwest Austin also opened its new modernized campus in January. Govalle Elementary School is the next modernized campus set to be completed. The district has yet to announce an opening date.

Jack Flagler


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