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'Déjà Vu' All Over Again: Residents Fret Over Future of AISD Land

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon
The former Baker School is one of 10 properties that the Austin Independent School District could lease, sell or redevelop.

The Austin School District owns 10 properties that aren’t schools—and the school board is expected to vote Monday whether it will accept bids to possibly lease, sell or repurpose those pieces of land. That includes the Baker School in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood, but some residents aren’t happy the land might be up for sale.

The Baker School was built in 1911, but it stopped being a school in the early 1980s. Now, it’s the district’s professional development campus for teachers and staff. At nearly five acres, it’s the largest piece of public land in the neighborhood, and some neighbors are afraid what might happen if the district sells the land.

“It’s a public piece of property, and I can just cannot see any reason to lose [it],” says Hyde Park resident Mark Fishman. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. It has no benefit in the future for the community. There are many uses that could be discussed and implemented.”

Fishman has lived in Hyde Park for over two decades. Now, he chairs the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association’s Parks and Public Space Committee. About five years ago, the school district asked for bids for many of these properties, including the Baker School. The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association passed a resolution opposing the sale. Ultimately, the board rejected the offers.

“It looks like déjà vu all over again,” Fishman says.

Fishman says the district should lease the land—not give it up.

It’s too early to say what the district will do. It doesn’t have to accept any of the bids for sale or lease. The resolution that’s up for a vote on Monday just allows the district to accept bids.

At this past Monday’s school board meeting, Trustee Gina Hinojosa reminded the district to be “sensitive to expectations of neighborhoods and communities within which these facilities are located” and urged the district to be “respectful of neighborhood plans and how development or usage of any of these facilities might affect neighbors surrounding community.”

The resolution also includes the district’s main building on Sixth Street, Allen Elementary School in East Austin and some vacant land around the city, among others. The entire list of properties is valued at $95 million.

Below is a map of the properties, courtesy of KUT's reporting partner, the Austin Monitor: