Austin ISD mulls real estate for new Northwest elementary school

Austin ISD officials are scoping out a former lighting manufacturer located on West Rundberg Lane near Metric Boulevard as the location of a new elementary school. If all looks right, the district could close a deal by early 2013.

"We are in the feasibility period, when the buyer studies the property to determine if they want to move forward with the purchase," said Paul Turner, executive director of AISD's office of facilities.

Though the school wouldn't open until the 2014–15 school year, it would provide much-needed relief to Cook and Wooldridge elementary schools, which are at 218 percent and 202 percent capacity, respectively. Turner approximates that as many as 800 children between pre-K and fifth grade could attend the new school.

AISD would purchase the 27,000-square-foot building at 2011 W. Rundberg Lane, previously occupied by Acuity Brands Lighting Inc., using money from the 2008 bond. Turner said the district has about $27.5 million to buy the land and refurbish the building. The Travis Central Appraisal District places the value of the land and 18-year-old building at $3.8 million.

The district would also budget $300,000–$400,000 to purchase instructional material and hire staff who could not be transferred from other schools. Staffing costs would go toward hiring a principal, librarian and cafeteria workers.

"Usually what happens in a situation like this, you've already got most of the teachers because you've got the kids that [those teachers] were serving," Turner said.

If AISD buys the building, it would be the first facility the district attempts to refurbish. AISD has always built schools from the ground up, but with undeveloped land scarce in North Austin, Turner said adaptive reuse, or renovating existing buildings, could become more commonplace.

"We are going to have the opportunity in that area to do more of these, particularly if the enrollment up there continues to increase," he said.

City of Austin population projections estimate that 168 more elementary-age students will be in the current Cook and Wooldridge school zones by the 2016–17 school year.

The district is also in the process of building another elementary school on East Rundberg Lane near North Lamar Boulevard that also could house up to 800 students and is scheduled to open in the 2013–14 school year.


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