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In this series, we look at the fears surrounding potential Austin ISD changes and the conversations it has brought up about integration and the history of school closures in Austin.

Austin ISD Says School Closure Plan Is About More Than Saving Money; It's About Spending Smarter

Austin Independent School District officials and school board memebers
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Austin ISD officals and school board members answer questions about the district's new school closure plan Friday.

The Austin Independent School District said it will save about $240 million in maintenance costs by closing 12 schools in the district and moving students to other campuses. But school officials say this plan wasn't proposed to just save money, it will also help students academically.

"This is really about reinvesting in the right way so our students can get some meaningful support and resources as a result of these reallocations," Nicole Conley, AISD's chief business officer, said at a news conference with AISD officials and school board members.

"There are people in this room that look like me, and we were the exceptions to the rule growing up," AISD Board President Geronimo Rodriguez, who is Latino, said. "I believe that if we are focused on academic programs that are focused on student achievement and student success, then kids like me growing up are the rule and not the exception."

The group addressed some of the questions the public is asking a day after the district released a draft of proposed closures to deal with declining enrollment and budget issues.

Some East Austin families are questioning why more school closures have been proposed in their neighborhoods than anywhere else and say it's unfair.

Trustees said many factors contributed to which schools were chosen, including the age of a building, enrollment and a school's proximity to other schools with similar programs.

Trustee Amber Elenz, who represents Central and part of Southwest Austin, says it's also a matter of ratios: There are more schools in East Austin.

"The districts that seem to be feeling the most closures still are going to have more schools than any other place in town," she said.

Here's a timeline for the proposed closures and consolidations:

August 2020: Brooke closes and students go to either Govalle or Linder.

January 2021: Sims closes and students go to Norman Elementary.

August 2021: Metz closes and students go to Sanchez Elementary. Pease closes, and students go to Zavala Elementary. Pecan Springs closes, and students attend either Winn or Norman.

August 2022: Bertha Sadler Means closes. Students can go to either Ann Richards or the new Northeast Middle School.

August 2022: New Northeast Middle School opens. This is the earliest grades 6-8 at Northeast (formerly Reagan) will start. 

August 2023: Ridgetop Elementary closes and students go to Reilly. Maplewood closes and students go to Campbell or Blackshear.

August 2024: Palm Elementary closes and students will go to either Perez or Langford. Dawson Elementary closes and students will attend either St. Elmo or Galindo. Joslin closes and students will attend either St. Elmo or Galindo. Webb closes and students go to Dobie.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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