The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a plan for closing and consolidating schools.
The decision to close schools comes as the district continues to face declining enrollment. Demographic reports show enrollment will continue to drop, so the district says it is financially irresponsible to keep all its schools open.
The board’s vote allows the administration to start creating a list of possible consolidations and closures. The district will use multiple criteria to determine this, including a school's enrollment, its age and what programs it offers.
Before the vote, Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district is being forced to close schools because of the enrollment situation.
“There’s going to be a lot of actions along the way,” Cruz told the board. “Some you may like, some you may not; I totally get that. But we’re not going to shy away from putting that in front of you.”
The district said by closing schools it will be able to invest money in renovating buildings, adding new programs and improving technology. The district has proposed consolidating schools that aren’t in the same feeder pattern.
Dusty Harshman, an AISD parent, told the board during public comment he’d like to see the district use this opportunity to better integrate schools.
“We are a district of socioeconomic extremes,” he said. “I know we feel it and to some extent we fear it. Other urban districts are taking proactive steps to balance schools at similar extremes.”
The district has said to ensure equity, it will not close schools all in one area. Many community members have expressed concern the schools slated for closure will all be in East Austin, where most of the underenrolled schools are. The board announced Monday it is hiring an equity officer who will oversee these decisions.
AISD did not cite the number of schools it will close. Now that the board has approved the process, district officials will create different scenarios for the board to vote on.
The district wants trustees to announce schools that could possibly close this August. It wants all closings, consolidations and renovations to be completed by August 2020.
The post has been updated.