Staff plans to have decided on uses for the first three campuses by mid-May, Community Engagement Coordinator Gabriella Beker said during a Dec. 8 meeting with community members.
The district is asking community members to submit their ideas for the closed schools online. Beker said community members will have the opportunity to weigh in on those options for the first three schools to be repurposed—Anita Ferales Coy Facility, Pease Elementary School and Rosedale School—during public meetings that will begin in January.
Austin ISD plans to start public discussions about repurposing the next two schools in July, although the two schools to be discussed are not yet decided, Beker said. Those two campuses’s new uses should be decided by mid-November, and discussions about the sixth school to be repurposed will start in January 2023, she said.
Decision-making for Pease will take a slightly different path than for Rosedale and Anita Coy because Pease has to be used for educational purposes, said Jeremy Striffler, director of real estate for the district.
In November 2019, the Austin ISD board of trustees voted to permanently close Pease and Brooke Elementary at the end of the 2019-20 school year and to close Metz and Sims elementary schools at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Three of the campuses—all but Pease—are located in East Austin.
Community members at the meeting suggested turning campuses into free housing for teachers or family housing.
Some speakers expressed distrust in the district.
“There were so many conversations with communities and what those communities said was we do not want school closures,” Angela Pires said. “After all this, it’s hard for me to believe that you really want to engage.”
Beker said nothing is decided for the now-empty campuses, and there will be a series of virtual and in-person meetings, during which community members can share their hopes for the schools’ uses.
“Our goal is really to co-create these solutions with the communities that are affected by it,” Beker said during the meeting. “It’s not about imposing ideas that I have or that other district staff have.”