Proposed AISD plans could lead to broad changes in Central Austin public schools

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Ten schools located in Central Austin could close and five high schools located in the area could offer new programs through Austin ISD’s school changes plan.

Director of Community Engagement Celso Beaz told Community Impact Newspaper that some scenario options “address systemic changes to the district as a whole,” while others are campus specific or community based, but “ultimately they all impact the student.”

Scenarios released Sept. 5 show that Brooke, Dawson, Maplewood, Metz, Pease, Pecan Springs, Ridgetop and Sims elementary schools could close along with Sadler Means Young Women’s Academy and Webb primary and middle schools if approved by the board on Nov. 18.

The following map shows all schools in Central Austin. Click on a school to read details from the draft scenarios that could impact that campus.

Enrollment at the schools proposed to close totals 3,805 students. Some of those students will begin moving to new campuses as soon as 2020, while other changes will not take place until the 2024-25 school year.

In addition to the closures and realignments, new programs will be added at Central Austin elementary, middle and high schools.

High school programs include a new tech school at Travis Early College High School, satellite campuses for Garza Independence School of Choice to help students across the district who face barriers to graduation, LBJ High School adding programs that will prepare students to be medical professionals and first responders, and esports programs at Eastside Memorial Early College High School and Austin High School.

Two Central Austin schools, Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy and Northeast Early College High School, will expand their grade levels, with each expanding to include students from grades 6-12. Gus Garcia YMLA will also add programs in social justice and legal studies.

At the local middle school level, a new campus in the Mueller neighborhood could affect boundaries for the surrounding area and will pull from a group five elementary schools. Martin Middle School could add specialized academies to prepare them for high school tracks such as the tech program at Travis or the health sciences program at Eastside, and O. Henry Middle School will adjust its programming to align with the existing academies at Austin High.

Programming changes at the Central Austin elementary level could include a Montessori model that will come to Winn Elementary, including bilingual, bilateral and bicultural programming.

Nicole Conley Johnson, AISD chief of business and operations, said that the savings in deferred maintenance on buildings that would be closing would total $240 million. She said that money is equivalent to about $350 on an average tax payer’s tax bill, and could be reinvested into other campuses and programs across the district.

For schools that close but had bond funds attached to them for improvements, Operations Officer Matias Segura said those funds would likely follow the student population to invest in their new campuses. 

AISD spokesperson Cristina Nguyen said the scenarios show a “wealth of programming that is going to be infused into our schools,”

“Yes, schools will close and facilities will be repurposed for community use or other things, but there are some really great opportunities for our students that are going to really going to help close achievement gaps and get our students to opportunities later in life,” she said.

The majority of campuses that close will be repurposed for either district or other uses. Some could be converted into affordable or workforce housing developments.

“We heard resoundingly from the community that if a school is to no longer be functioning as a school that the number one preference would be to see affordable housing,” Community Engagement Coordinator Ali Ghilarducci said. “In every region we heard that loud and clear. We don’t necessarily know how many sites will be able to repurpose but I know that we will look at that as the number one option for a number of our sites.”

Beaz said he doesn’t want the district “to kick the can down the road any longer.”

“We want to address [problems]by way of these scenarios,” he said.

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  1. Jack Wilkerson

    I absolutely agree about “kicking the can down the road.” It seems like we’ve been trying to modernize the district and consolidate underenrolled campuses for decades. The district seems to accept feedback a little too readily sometimes, and so many plans like this before have been scaled back to have almost no effect. But, with the 2017 Bond Project and the FMP it’s looking like AISD is finally getting serious about upgrading the district. Makes me hopeful for this plan.

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Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. He graduated in 2011 from Boston University and worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in January of 2018.
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