South Austin arts option considered

Austin ISD board discusses expanding LASA magnet program

By Kelli Weldon

The topic of increasing student access to Austin ISD's Liberal Arts and Science Academy, or LASA, programming was part of the school district's board of trustees work session Nov. 10.

Trustees discussed implementation of the first phase of the district's facility master plan as well as potential new academic and facilities recommendations. One option the board discussed was expanding the LASA magnet program, based at the Lyndon B. Johnson Early College High School campus.

LASA has received national recognition. Interim Chief Schools Officer Edmund Oropez said much of the demand for LASA is in South Austin.

"The number one customer of LASA right now, and that changes as years go by, is currently Bowie [High School] and Austin High," Oropez said.

Trustee Robert Schneider suggested earlier this year that AISD should have a community conversation about opening a LASA option in South Austin.

"The transportation issues in this city make it so dysfunctional that putting anything even over the north bank of ... Lady Bird Lake is a no-go for a lot of folks in South Austin," he said.

Originally, Schneider said he wanted to begin a community conversation about a LASA south option during the 2014–15 school year, with the goal of implementing a proposal in the 2015–16 school year.

"With board elections and hiring the [superintendent], that's not going to happen, so my request would be that we continue this but aim for a target start date not of '15–'16, but of '16–'17," he said at the work session.

Trustee Ann Teich said she would support exploring a LASA south concept.

Some community members think the ongoing creation of magnet programs hurts schools by taking high-achieving students to other campuses, trustee Lori Moya said. Moya added she wants the board to stop calling out high schools in South Austin as examples of potential locations since those communities have not been engaged on the subject.

"We are not going to do anything at all without thoroughly vetting it with the community," Schneider said.