Austin ISD’s Boundary Advisory Committee on June 13 selected Plan B, formerly represented in plans 2 and 6, as the preliminary boundary map for the new Southwest Elementary School and Kiker Elementary School. The map will be presented to the community at open houses scheduled for July 18 and 20.
“The BAC will be at those meetings, listen to feedback, will rediscuss Plan B based on all the feedback they heard,” AISD Director of Planning Melissa Laursen said. “So [Plan B] is not at this point a final map. It’s for discussion at the open house.”
Plan B—which rated the highest out of the four options based on preliminary criteria set by the BAC but not highest overall—opens the new Southwest Elementary School at 80% capacity and reduces Kiker Elementary School’s enrollment to 110% capacity compared to its current 150%.
In the plan, homes in Circle C Ranch on roads south of South Bay Lane that are currently zoned to Kiker would be moved to the new elementary school, and bus service would be provided to those students. All four plans considered could be found on the map below.
Plan B passed with a 14-3 vote in favor. BAC members Erika Boyd and Sharla DeMedeiros—who represent Southwest Austin as part of the Bowie High School vertical team—were two members who voted in favor of Plan D instead.
Plan D—which ranked highest by the BAC based on secondary criteria, including keeping neighborhoods together and maintaining walkability—would have kept all of Circle C Ranch at Kiker and relocated students in Circle C North to Mills Elementary School.
However, based on projections by the district, Southwest Elementary School would have opened underenrolled at only 70% capacity, below the targeted 75% threshold set by the district. Similarly, Plan 4 would have increased overcrowding at Mills unless the plan came with a guarantee Mills would be closed to transfer students. Closing the school to transfers may have reduced the student population to more preferable levels over a three- to five-year period.
BAC co-chairperson Andy Anderson said if the committee were to approve a plan that opened a new school at below 75%, it could be setting a bad precedent for other schools at similar enrollment percentages that currently face closures through the district’s school changes initiative.
“If this new school does not open up at least at 75%, then we’re going to have a hard argument with schools on the other side of town that are closing at that same [percentage],” he said. “I would hope that we would get to that 75% or more; anything below that and we may hear a lot more screaming about, ‘Why are you opening this new one so low, and you’re going to shut down another one that’s at the same number?'”
Boyd said the policies put in place by the district and school closings are not the fault of the students and families in Southwest Austin that are going to be impacted by new boundaries.
“I do not think splitting up the portion of this neighborhood that’s gone to Kiker for 25 years just to get to a [75%] number that we can turn around and give the board some cover for is good,” she said.
BAC member Eric Ramos said the committee has to treat all families across the district equally.
“If we’re going to have one school at a percentage in one place, we have to do that elsewhere,” he said.