Land deal snag delays new middle school in Austin's Mueller neighborhood

A new middle school is being planned for the Mueller neighborhood, but Austin ISD has yet to purchase the land from the city of Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

A new middle school is being planned for the Mueller neighborhood, but Austin ISD has yet to purchase the land from the city of Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin ISD is in the midst of nearly a dozen school construction projects funded by the $1 billion bond that voters passed in November 2017. Just two of the district's 19 projects have yet to start construction—a $25.6 million project at LBJ Early College High School, set to break ground this fall, and a $60.96 million project to build a new middle school in the Mueller neighborhood.

That Mueller school, originally set to open in August 2022, has hit a roadblock, according to district staff. The timeline has been pushed back to 2023, and staff members say it is in danger of moving back further to 2024.

Unlike its other 18 projects to build new, modernized campuses, AISD does not own the land in the Mueller development where the middle school will be built. That land belongs to the city of Austin, which entered into a master development agreement with Catellus at the site of the former airport.

So far, AISD has been unable to come to an agreement with the city and Catellus to purchase the land, meaning it has been unable to start a construction process the district believes will last 18-22 months.

"Unfortunately there have been some additional delays, and some things that have come about that are concerning," AISD Operations Officer Matias Segura told the board of trustees June 10.

If the real estate deal can't be completed in the next month, Segura said the opening would likely have to be delayed to 2024, adding an estimated $4.5 million to $5 million in costs.

District 3 Trustee Kevin Foster asked the city to "help us get to the finish line" on a project he said would benefit the whole community while noting the delay does offer AISD a chance to succeed on an important project.

"Our one silver lining in this is that we have an opportunity to ensure we get this middle school right," Foster said.

The new middle school will have a capacity of roughly 800 students, and attendance boundaries have not yet been established. Board President Geronimo Rodriguez asked staff to return to the board by July 31 with an update but noted he expected more information to come sooner than that deadline.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the estimated construction timeline for the new middle school.


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