Austin ISD Facilities Master Plan update focuses on portable reduction, changes to facilities

The Toney Burger Center in South Austin is one of the centralized Austin ISD facilities listed in the district's facilities master plan that could be renovated in the future. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Toney Burger Center in South Austin is one of the centralized Austin ISD facilities listed in the district's facilities master plan that could be renovated in the future. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Toney Burger Center in South Austin is one of the centralized Austin ISD facilities listed in the district's facilities master plan that could be renovated in the future. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin ISD trustees will vote to approve an update to the facilities master plan, or FMP, at the Jan. 27 meeting. The plan details options AISD could look at to modernize and better use schools as well as facilities and offerings for athletics, fine arts, and career and technical education across the district.

Portable reduction plan

During a presentation at a board workshop Jan. 13, AISD Director of Planning Melissa Laursen said the FMP includes a portable classroom reduction plan

The plan aims to minimize the district’s dependence on portables as a long-term overenrollment solutions. She said portables should be a “last resort” and a “short-term solution” in the future.

As of October, the district has 622 portable classrooms. According to Laursen, the newest portable in the district was purchased in 1997, and with a lifespan of about 20 years, all are beyond their expected usage. As of 2016, the district has not rated any of its portables as in “good” or “excellent” condition.


By the 2022 school year, the FMP’s goal would reduce the number of portables in the district by 25%, and remove all portables considered “failing,” Laursen said. Of that 25%, about 100 would be reduced through 18 campus modernization projects approved in the district’s 2017 bond. The remainder would include removing portables that are considered “failing,” have been vacated or are no longer needed for enrollment relief, she said.

Optimal utilization for campuses

Currently, the district aims for campuses to be enrolled between 75%-115% of their permanent enrollment capacity. The standard has been in place since the approval of the district’s 2014 FMP, and 66 of the district’s over 120 schools are within that range, according to Laursen.

Since, schools below the 75% number have been designated TUP schools, or campuses with a target utilization plan in place to boost the school’s enrollment.

The 2019 version of the FMP could narrow that range to 85%-110% to better represent an ideal school capacity, according to the district. Under the new standard, only 44 schools are within the targeted enrollment range.

Additionally, through the updated FMP, target utilization plans would also be developed for schools that are overenrolled.

“The [facilities and bond planning advisory committee] wants to eliminate the stigma that if you are a TUP school you will close,” Laursen said. “With the school changes plan [that was approved in the fall], under utilization was not the only factor [used to choose closing schools].”

Athletics and arts changes

The FMP also outlines improvements for gyms and fields at campuses across the district, with the goal of hosting more games and tournaments at campuses. However, the FMP also shows centralized athletics and arts facilities—such as the Toney Burger Center in South Austin, House Park downtown and Nelson Fields in East Austin—that could be renovated in the future.

“The [Toney] Burger Center’s current recommendation is it would include a gym, a large meeting space, athletic offices would stay there and then potentially an auditorium to serve [South Austin] for fine arts,” Laursen said.

The FMP also shows the need to introduce career and technical education classes in middle school curriculums, earlier than when typically offered in the district. Similarly, fine arts programing will be expanded at the elementary level.

According to Laursen, access to the programs will be available to all campuses. Instead of requiring students to travel to specific campuses that offer programing, teachers will travel to different campuses to expand the offerings.
By Nicholas Cicale

Nick was born in Long Island, New York and grew up in South Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in writing and a minor in music. Nick was a journalist for three years at the St. James Plaindealer in Minnesota before moving to Austin to join Community Impact Newspaper in 2016.


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