The $33.2 million project—which broke ground in August 2018 as part of Austin ISD’s 2017 bond—includes three newly constructed school buildings with a total enrollment capacity of 870 students, Drew Johnson, AISD's director of bond planning and controls, told Community Impact Newspaper during a tour of the new facility Dec. 17. The facility will replace the current Menchaca campus, which has a capacity of only 606 students and utilizes portables to house some of its current 723 students, he said.
The old Menchaca building has undergone numerous renovations and expansions over the past 40 years but would again be due for significant repair if it were to keep operating, according to Menchaca Principal Eliza Loyola.
"[The old building] is very demoralizing for our staff," said Loyola, who has been principal for the past five years and has worked at Menchaca for 15 years. "Teachers didn't feel appreciated or respected or that they had a space to work in, and that compounds over time. It's very emotional moving over here [to the new building]."
Once staff, students and supplies have completely moved into the new facility, the old building will be demolished and converted to district green space, Johnson said. He said the school site used to be a park, and it will be converted to something close to its original state.
Menchaca Elementary will be one of the first modernized AISD campuses to open through approval of the 2017 bond. Modernized schools focus on more collaborative and flexible learning spaces than those built prior.
"The modernized schools are all different layouts but have similar functions," Johnson said. "It kind of all depends on how we designed it with the community."
Features of Menchaca include a large library and media room with ample seating types, a Maker Space for creative group activities and additional rooms with flexible uses. “Learning neighborhoods,” which are centralized spaces shared by multiple classrooms, are also set up at the school to encourage collaboration and the sharing or resources.
She said having three separate buildings was intentional in design, with the goal of connecting indoor and outdoor learning opportunities for students. The campus features large trees in its courtyards, and some rooms—such as art rooms—have large windows or glass doors that can be opened to encourage student creativity, she said.
Modernized campuses across the district will also feature community rooms—spaces where public events, presentations, performances or voting stations can be held without disrupting the school community, Johnson said. At Menchaca, the community room is located in the school’s administrative building and attached to the main office.
Loyola said the new space will require teachers to think and teach differently, but staff are excited to move into the building in January.
"We are so lucky," she said. "It's really changing our habits and our patterns because you have to get used to being in that type of space."
An official dedication ceremony for the new campus, located at 12120 Menchaca Road, Austin, will be held by the district Jan. 10. A community open house with food and entertainment will be held at the campus Jan. 11 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.