Austin ISD will unveil scenarios for school consolidations and renovations in August 2019, and “reimagined schools” will open in August 2020, according to a timeline approved by trustees Feb. 25.
Titled the "Reinvention Roadmap for Repurposing, Consolidations, Boundaries and Better Facilities" by the district, the timeline outlines the process to create a plan to more effectively utilize district campuses. The plan could outline school closure and consolidation options, new programing options at specific campuses and boundary changes.
"It's the estimation of this trustee that schools must close," District 2 trustee Jayme Mathias said. "We've lost 6,500 students roughly in the six years I've been on the board, and [we could] lose another 7,000 students by 2029. For us to be thinking about how we're continuing to spread less and less students over the same number of facilities or an increasing number of facilities, I think it's important for us to be upfront about the possibilities [of consolidations or closures]."
After district staff received pushback from the board at a Feb. 11 workshop regarding the aggressiveness of a draft timeline, the approved timeline outlines two extra months of planning and community engagement.
Preliminary scenarios for consolidations and renovations will be presented at a work session in August, with a 2019 facilities master plan up for approval in October. According to the timeline, “reimagined schools” will open in August 2020.
"I think the timeline that we have here suggests we as a board will be making decisions by October 2019," Mathias said. "We are going to make a decision in 2019 to right size this district and to do what boards before us have failed to do and to not kick the can down the road but to take the actions that we are needed to take for the sake of our students."
During public comments, resident Dusty Harshman asked the district to view the upcoming school consolidation plan as a “school integration plan.”
"Let's use our reinvention roadmap to balance the socio-economic enrollment in our schools and more truly reinvent the urban school experience," he said.
Trustees echoed the sentiments, saying the district must look through an equity lens when creating scenarios to better use its campuses. Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district is in the process of hiring a chief equity officer that could help with the process, but the district’s guiding principals will be used to address equity in the meantime.
“I feel hopeful that we can achieve the kind of equity that we're going to looking for, but we can't wait for that equity officer to be hired,” District 3 trustee Ann Teich said. “We have to move forward."