Austin ISD trustees vote to close four elementary schools in School Changes plan

Pease Elementary School students walk out of class Nov. 18 ahead of an Austin ISD vote to close four elementary schools, including Pease. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pease Elementary School students walk out of class Nov. 18 ahead of an Austin ISD vote to close four elementary schools, including Pease. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Pease Elementary School students walk out of class Nov. 18 ahead of an Austin ISD vote to close four elementary schools, including Pease. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
After a day of rallies, a press conference by local leaders and more than two hours of public testimony—where over 80 local parents, students, teachers and elected officials asked trustees to delay or vote against its current School Changes plan—Austin ISD trustees voted in the early hours of the morning Nov. 19 to close three East Austin and one downtown campus for the 2020-21 school year in the process.

As approved, AISD's School Changes plan will close the Pease, Brooke, Sims and Metz elementary school campuses for the 2020-21 school year; draw new boundaries for elementary schools in Southwest Austin; and reinvest savings from closed schools into districtwide programing, according to the district.

Trustees Ann Teich, Arati Singh and LaTisha Anderson voted against the motion, which passed 6-3.

Prior to the vote, the district’s Chief Equity Officer Dr. Stephanie Hawley called the School Changes process “very flawed” and “not transparent.”

“The map of what you have with the school closures is a map of what 21st century racism looks like,” Hawley said.

Hawley—who has advocated for the district to “disrupt the history” of racism in the city—said it is likely nobody at the district “got out of bed” trying to create an inequitable process. However, the process has done damage within the community nonetheless.

“We really did not co-create with [the community],” she said.

Hawley’s sentiment echoed many statements made by community members earlier in the evening, who called the process inequitable.

While some residents praised certain aspects of districtwide scenarios—such as the creation of a special education plan—each of the speakers during public comment was opposed the current plan, asking trustees to delay the vote or to vote against School Changes entirely.

“Stop the closures, listen to the community and build trust,” Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said at the meeting.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea, who also attended the rally earlier in the day Nov. 18, called public schools “the bedrock” of public democracy and asked trustees to delay the School Changes vote. She said during public comment that by supporting the School Changes plan as is, trustees would endanger future bonds and drive families away from the district and toward charter schools.

Trustees and some staff members said the plan will allow AISD to allocate its resources better because it will no longer have to spend money to maintain and operate aging buildings, and instead will be able to use that money more effectively in a district that has seen steady enrollment declines.

“Our footprint as a district is too large to adequately support the students within it. I know that’s not what families want to hear,” said District 7 Trustee Yasmin Wagner. “I know we have too many buildings right now, and to me people are more important than buildings.”

Anderson, who represents District 1 and was bused from East Austin to Southwest Austin when she was growing up in the city, said she would not support any of the closures, and the board was making another mistake in a history of bad choices that hurt the East Austin community.

“This is not the message we need to be sending,” Anderson said. “I keep telling y’all. This is traumatic.”

Numerous amendments by trustees to the School Changes motion failed, including two from Teich and one from Singh. Teich requested trustees vote on each individual aspect of the plan instead of grouping aspects together in a single vote, and also asked the district not sell any of the closed school properties. Singh's failed amendment would have removed Pease and Brooke from the closures list for another year until an equity report was released by the district and evaluated.

What was approved?

Effective for the 2020-21 school year, trustees approved:

  • a combined boundary that will send Metz and Sanchez Elementary School students to Sanchez once modernization work is complete in August 2021 and will close Metz;

  • a combined boundary that will send Sims and Norman Elementary School students to Norman once modernization work is complete in January 2021 and will close Sims;

  • a new boundary that will send Brooke students south of the Colorado River to Linder Elementary School, will send the reminder of Brooke students to Govalle Elementary School and will close Brooke;

  • a plan to close Pease and “co-locate” current Pease Elementary students to Zavala Elementary School for a year to create a permanent consolidation plan for the future;

  • boundary changes and associated grandfathering and transfer freezes for Kiker, Baranoff, Kocurek, Cowan, Boone and the new Southwest elementary schools and Bailey and Gorzycki middle schools;

  • a two-year moratorium on requests for proposals for the “commercial sale of each newly vacated property”; and

  • districtwide proposals including plans for expanded school hours, strategic staffing, and academic equity.


The Texas Department of Transportation project on I-35 is now scheduled to be finished this winter. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Estimated completion of I-35 project near William Cannon Drive pushed back until winter

The project was initially expected to be finished this summer.

Dr. Molly Lopez is the director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health and also serves as a research associate professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. (Designed by Stephanie Torres/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Mental health expert talks emotional well-being, building resiliency for the 2020-21 school year

According to Dr. Molly Lopez, director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, the upcoming school year will serve as an opportunity for students, families, teachers and school administrators to learn skills in coping, re-evaulate mental health protocols and build resiliency in challenging times.

Jules Design Bar
TABC change opens window for some bars to qualify as restaurants under state pandemic orders

Following a new industry guideline recently distributed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, more bars across the state may soon be able to qualify as restaurants.

Here are the coronavirus updates to know today in Hays County. (Community Impact staff)
Dripping Springs woman is Hays County's 38th COVID-19 death

Hays County reported 2,673 active cases of the coronavirus and 126 hospitalizations related to the virus Aug. 13.

Bikers ride up Shoal Creek Boulevard in February. A bond proposal from Austin would fund additional bike lanes, sidewalk reconstruction, capital improvements and more. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin will send $460 million transportation bond to voters in November

The bond would fund include capital improvements to a number of projects, including the Longhorn Dam Bridge over Lady Bird Lake. The cost to the median Austin taxpayer would be about $77-$80 per year.

The future location on South Congress Avenue would be the third located in the South Austin area. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
P. Terry's plans for S. Congress drive-thru and more Austin-area news

Read the latest Austin-area business and community news.

Tesla announced its decision to bring its next gigafactory to Travis County on July 22. (Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tesla posts first gigafactory jobs as construction gets underway in Travis County

The company has 49 active listings for Austin-area jobs related to the gigafactory and other operations.

A police officer rides past protesters during the June 7 Justice for Them All March. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police transformation begins in Austin as City Council approves millions in budget cuts, reinvestments, commitments

The move comes in response to a national and local reckoning over police brutality and the future of public safety.

Capital Metro's plan to build rail lines and expand its public transportation network, Project Connect, will head to voters in the city of Austin on Nov. 3. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Project Connect officially in the hands of Austin voters Nov. 3

Austin City Council took its final vote Aug. 13 on a plan to ask voters for approximately $3.85 billion in local revenue to expand the city's public transportation network.

Austin Regional Clinic location
Austin Regional Clinic now recruiting for coronavirus vaccine trial

Local health care provider Austin Regional Clinic will recruit 250 patients from the Austin area to participate in a late-phase clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine.

The future location on South Congress Avenue would be the third located in the South Austin area. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
P. Terry's submits plans for new S. Congress drive-thru

The future location would be the third located in the South Austin area.

(Courtesy AMC Theatres)
AMC Theatres to reopen Aug. 20 with 15-cent tickets

AMC Theatres—which has multiple locations in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas—will begin reopening its movie screens Aug. 20.