Austin ISD took its first step Monday night toward becoming a District of Innovation.

The Austin ISD board of trustees voted 7-0-1 to set a public hearing in October and consider designating the school district as an innovation zone. Trustee Paul Saldaña abstained from voting.

Here are three takeaways from the vote:

  1. A school in an innovation district can adopt a plan that makes it exempt from certain state laws, including class sizes, the date of the first day of school, the length of the school day, site-based decision making, attendance rules and discipline procedures. The “district of innovation” designation is rolling out in school districts across the state—including Georgetown—following the 84th legislative session. House Bill 1842's approval grants ISDs greater flexibility similar to what is currently available to open enrollment charter schools.

  2. AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said that gathering input from schools and staff will be crucial as the district moves forward. “I really want us to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said. “I don’t want it to be a top-down approach … I want to have these rich conversations.” The next step is for a districtwide committee to create a plan for comprehensive education programs with innovation and the list of Education Code provisions to be exempt, either by district or some schools. The district advisory committee, along with a two-thirds majority of the board of trustees, would then have to approve that plan and establish a process for each school to discuss creating campus plans as part of the districtwide innovation plan.

  3. The district does not have to follow through with becoming a district of innovation, but the board’s action at the meeting lays the groundwork for doing so, Cruz said.

Trustee Ann Teich said she wants to see how schools respond and how the designation would fit within AISD’s overall academic plan.

“I think this is an exciting opportunity to do something very innovative in this district,” Teich said.