The Austin Independent School District released a plan Thursday to close 12 schools and move those students to other campuses. The district is also proposing boundary changes and wants to add academic programs at more than 30 schools.
"Change is hard," Superintendent Paul Cruz said in a letter to the AISD community, "but it can also make us stronger."
"We all care about the future of our students, and we’re willing to step up to help reimagine and reinvent our school district," he wrote. "The changes we make will be worth the effort."
Cruz told KUT these changes are a long time coming. The school board will vote on this draft in November. Until then, he says, the district welcomes community feedback.
“I want to have these options out for our board to consider, for the community to review, to create a dialogue about how we address inequities from the past, how we deal with it head on, and actually do something in a better way for all of our students and communities,” Cruz said.
The district announced in February it needed to make dramatic changes, saying declining enrollment and budget issues left it no other choice. Many of the schools on the list have been undercapacity for years. AISD officials have said it is too expensive to keep under-enrolled schools open, and promised if they close schools they will invest more money in others.
Cruz said he knows these proposed changes will be hard for families, but in the long run, students will benefit from the improvements to academics.
The closings and consolidations will happen over the next four years, with the first consolidation happening at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
Here is a breakdown of the proposed changes:
Sims Elementary will close and the building will be repurposed. Students attending Sims, including those from Norman Elementary, will all attend a new Norman-Sims campus once it is renovated.
Pecan Springs Elementary will close and the building will be repurposed. Some students will go to Norman-Sims, while most will attend Winn Elementary. Winn will get renovated. Winn will keep its Montessori program and start a new two-way dual language program, in which classrooms are balanced between students whose native language is English and others whose native language is something else. Classes are taught in both languages.
Maplewood Elementary will close. The students and programs there will be moved to Campbell Elementary, which will absorb Maplewood’s arts program. Students can also choose to go to nearby Blackshear Elementary, which will get renovated and expanded.
Webb Middle School will close. Students here will go to Dobie Middle School. Dobie will get renovated.
Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy will close and the campus will be repurposed. Students living in that area who want a single-gender option will be allowed to attend Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. A coed middle school will be built in the area for neighborhood students.
Brooke Elementary will close. Students zoned for Brooke who live north of Lady Bird Lake will attend a renovated Govalle Elementary. Students living south of Lady Bird Lake will attend Linder Elementary, which will get renovated. AISD wants to use the space at Brooke to create affordable housing for teachers.
Palm Elementary will close and the building will be repurposed. These students will attend Perez Elementary, which will be renovated. Some Perez students will be re-zoned to Langford Elementary.
Metz Elementary will close for good and the building will be repurposed. These students, who are currently sharing a building with students from Sanchez Elementary, will consolidate with Sanchez. That school is currently being renovated and will reopen in 2021.
Ridgetop Elementary will close. Students will go to Reilly Elementary, which will be modernized. Reilly will offer two-way dual language programs in Spanish, Mandarin and English.
Pease Elementary, an all-transfer school located downtown, will close. Students there can now attend Zavala Elementary. Current Pease students can also transfer back to their neighborhood schools or choose another school. Zavala will still house students from its neighborhood. Zavala will get a renovation.
Joslin Elementary will close and the building will be repurposed. Students will attend Galindo or a renovated St. Elmo Elementary. Students currently attending Galindo who live south of Ben White will be zoned for St. Elmo. Students north of Ben White will remain at Galindo.
Dawson Elementary will close and the building will be repurposed. Students will attend Galindo Elementary.
Northeast High School (the new name for Reagan) will expand from a high school to include grades 6-8.
Garza Independence School will have satellite programs around the city. The alternative high school currently has a waiting list and needs more space, so students will receive Garza programming at other high schools. The Garza building may remain open, but that will be determined later.
Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy will expand from a middle school to become a grade 6-12 school. The goal is to provide an option for boys that mirrors the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. Gus Garcia will get a new legal studies and social justice program. Gus Garcia will still be considered a neighborhood school, but boys throughout the district can attend and receive transportation.
Patton Elementary will get an addition to its building that connects it to Small Middle School. This will help with overcrowding at Patton. The two schools will also share a world languages and green technology program, so students can better transition from elementary to middle school.
A new middle school will be built in Northeast Austin. This was approved in the 2017 bond. The district hasn’t outlined the specific boundaries for this new school, but it means boundaries will change for students currently zoned for Dobie, Lamar, Martin and Webb. Specific boundary changes will be announced later.
A new elementary school will be built in Southwest Austin. This was part of the 2017 bond that voters passed. This school will relieve overcrowding at Kiker and Baranoff Elementary Schools. Boundaries will be changed between Baranoff and Kocurek Elementary Schools. Attendance boundaries will also be changed between Cowan and Boone Elementary Schools. The district’s Boundary Advisory Committee has already been looking at these changes and will issue a recommendation soon.
All AISD schools are expanding their before- and after-school care for families of all income levels. Schools will be open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. This aims to help working parents have reliable child care during the week.
All teachers and staff will go through cultural proficiency training to better work with students from all races, genders and backgrounds.
The following schools are getting two-way dual language programs (which is when classrooms are balanced between students whose native language is English and others whose native language is something else. Classes are taught in both languages): Andrews, Boone, Cook, Jordan, Mills, Pickle, the new Southwest elementary school and Winn elementary schools.
Widén and Perez Elementary Schools and Paredes Middle School will get new outdoor leadership programs, which will be focused on activities and lessons with the nearby parks and green spaces.
LBJ High School will get a new program for students to get certifications in police, fire and emergency medical technicians.
Wooten Elementary will get a fine arts academy.
Martin Middle School will get new programs in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The goal is to better prepare students for programs that exist at its feeder high schools Austin High, Eastside Memorial and Travis High.
Austin High and Eastside Memorial High School will get a new Esports program, where students will learn the technology and business side of this industry.
Burnet Middle School will be a Global Languages School. This means curriculum centered around foreign languages and multiculturalism. The middle school will also have an entrepreneurship program.
Doss, Davis, Hill, Pillow and Summitt Elementaries will get International Baccalaureate classes to prepare students for similar programming at Anderson High School.
Barton Hills, Bryker Woods, Casis, Mathews, Oak Hill and Zilker Elementary will get new a new project based learning curriculum focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. O. Henry Middle School will get a humanities program. The goal is to align these schools that feed into Austin High School with the various academies available at the high school.
Paredes Middle School will get a Green Tech program, which includes curriculum focused on the environment and allows students to do projects and lessons related to real-world environmental issues.
Travis High School will get a new technology program that prepares students for jobs in tech.
Covington Middle School will get a new Fine Arts International Baccalaureate program. The building will be renovated to include classrooms for visual and performing arts.
Kocurek Elementary will get an International Baccalaureate program. Students who attend Kocurek are currently zoned for Bailey Middle School. Going forward, students in this program will have the opportunity to attend the new Fine Arts IB program at Covington Middle.
Bowie High School will get an expanded engineering and computer science program.
Teachers will not be laid off. AISD says they will have a job in the district. It’s unclear what will happen to school support staff and administration.
The district doesn’t have specific plans yet for what to do with the buildings. The plan specifies an idea for only one school, Brooke Elementary, and says it would like to turn it into affordable housing for teachers.
Cruz says AISD wants to hear from people in these neighborhoods to get ideas.
“What’s the community need? Do want to see that school as a community center? Do we want to use that school as something around affordability and affordable housing?” he said.
Boundary changes for specific schools are already laid out. If the plan is approved, other boundary changes may be on the table. One of the goals of the overhaul is to streamline the progression of schools a student attends throughout her academic life.
For example, many elementary schools are zoned for two different middle schools, which are zoned for multiple high schools. AISD officials say they want students to follow a set path with similar academic programs at each school.
The school board will discuss these proposed changes at its work session Monday. The board has been supportive of the decision to close and consolidate schools, and voted in favor of the district drafting this plan.
The board will not take a final vote on these changes until November.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said students from Metz and Sanchez Elementary Schools are currently sharing a school at Sanchez. They are actually both housed at Metz.