Community voices support, disdain for AISD's facilities master plan recommendations

The draft District of Innovation plan was presented to the Austin ISD board of trustees at tonight's special board meeting.

The draft District of Innovation plan was presented to the Austin ISD board of trustees at tonight's special board meeting.

Over an hour was set aside at Monday night's Austin ISD board of trustees meeting for community members to share their thoughts on the recommendations put forth by the Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee, or FABPAC, for long-term facilities planning outlined in the facilities master plan. Constituents from many parts of the district turned out to advocate for their neighborhood schools.

Several parents appeared before the board to express their disdain for the recommended closure of Joslin Elementary School in Southwest Austin. Kate Mason-Murphy, a parent of two Joslin students, referenced the "long-standing relationship" the school has developed with surrounding entities, such as a nearby church, which hosts services at Joslin, and the numerous grants Joslin parents have been awarded to improve health and wellness for students.

"Being on your list ultimately stops our work," she said.

The recommended consolidation of Joslin with nearby elementaries is based on chronic underenrollment, according to the FABPAC's recommendations. Some parents said the school's lack of students is result of poor zoning decisions made by the district.

"Attendance boundaries have not been adjusted to boost Joslin's enrollment," Joslin parent Ryan Turner said. "Joslin’s underenrollment of 1 percent is in part the result of AISD's failure to consider basic demographic data or use best practices."

Numerous comments were also made on the proposed relocation of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy from East to Central Austin. Southwest Austin resident Rose Martinez spoke of the impact the commute has on her daughter.

"Going to bed at midnight does not support social-emotional learning or healthy lifestyles," she said. "Find a campus that is equidistant for students all over the city."

Other constituents urged board members to honor the FABPAC's recommendations.

"I have witnessed careful deliberation, creative problem-solving, balancing of needs and constraints, and respectful dialogue even on charged topics," LASA parent Ann Phipps said. "Do not diminish this outcome by second-guessing."

The FABPAC's recommendation to alleviate underenrollment at Dawson Elementary School by consolidating it with Galindo Elementary School within the next six to 12 years also drew a fair amount of parent disapproval. Dawson parent Michael Feferman said that contrary to the FABPAC's findings, he has noticed an uptick in young families in his neighborhood. He also expressed his concerns over the impact the consolidation would have on area traffic patterns.

"The numbers you are looking at do not accurately reflect the needs of our community," he said. "There will be traffic problems that will prevent us and our kids from having a good experience at Galindo."

Representatives from the FABPAC who were present at the meeting reiterated that proposed consolidations are subject to ongoing review and changes in demographic data.

Approval or denial of the recommendations for the facilities master plan is scheduled for a board vote in late March.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


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