Austin ISD considers potential uses for Allan ES campus in 2013–14

The future of the Allan Elementary School campus was the focus of an Austin ISD board of trustees work session May 13.

At its Feb. 23 meeting, the board advised the administration not to reopen the Allan building as a school for 2013–14. Instead, the board is assessing a variety of options on how to use the campus, including leasing it, renovating it or leaving it empty for one year while the board seeks community input on potential uses.

In December, the board terminated the district's contract with IDEA Public Schools, which is operating an in-district charter at the school, and now the board must decide how to use the facility for the 2013–14 school year.

"If [a facility] is a school, most people want it to stay a school, and if it's not a school they want to generally see it still be part of [AISD's] school community and services," Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said.

During the AISD bond election May 11, voters did not approve Proposition 2, which included funding for overcrowding relief. In light of this, Carstarphen advised trustees to consider options that would alleviate overcrowding.

Trustee Gina Hinojosa asked whether keeping the campus open with elementary school programming would be possible, but Carstarphen noted that option would not be cost-effective, as nearly 400 of the 540 or so students currently enrolled at IDEA Allan Academy and College Prep are planning to follow IDEA to its new charter school, while 48 have said they plan to stay with AISD and return to their feeder schools.


Each of the renovation possibilities being considered by the board would have cost implications.

"One of my chief concerns is going to be not doing anything that's going to take money out of the fund balance," trustee Robert Schneider said, adding he looks forward to the discussion about how use of the campus will tie in with the district's facility master plan.

AISD board President Vincent Torres suggested the district leave the site vacant during the next school year while it launches a community engagement process to determine what the public wants to see at the campus. By doing so, the district could reduce budgeted expenses by an estimated $3.5 million.

Focusing on attracting parents to the school with unique options, Trustee Lori Moya expressed interest in programs such as dual-language education. The district could convert the site into a districtwide K-8 or middle school with a dual-language focus, opening in school year 2015–16. Such use would have an estimated one-time cost of $6,457,500, including facilities costs, and funding would have to be identified for that option, according to AISD.

"Whatever it is we decide to do there, it has to be completely different from a traditional program. Otherwise I can't see how those families would choose to go there versus going back to their home schools," she said.

Other possibilities

The board is also considering renovating the site to house the new school for young men, which will be funded in part by the Moody Foundation. Doing so would eliminate the need to renovate the Alternative Learning Center for that program. It would cost $16.7 million to renovate the Allan campus, compared with an estimated $22 million for ALC. The board could also opt to use Allan to house ALC's programming.

A pre-K center would cost $1.4 million to launch, not including facilities costs, according to district estimates. The academic focus might include a dual-language program, and some of the site's space would be available for administrative offices.

Another option the board considered was opening a Career and Technical Education Center, which could serve as a hub for students from more than one vertical team, which is a high school and the schools that feed into it. Maintenance and operations costs are projected at $2.46 million for the first year, and the district would have to find funding.

Using the campus for systemwide testing and information services instead would result in an estimated cost avoidance of $119,000 in its first year of implementation, and an additional $619,000 per year thereafter.

To lease the school to an outside entity, the district estimated it would generate $240,000 in revenue for up to 30,000 square feet. Such a lease would leave the district with five weeks to prepare Allan for a different use in the 2014–15 school year. The board said it would decline any offer by IDEA to lease the Allan facility for the 2013–14 school year.


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