The Austin Independent School District held its second week of community meetings to discuss its plan to close 12 schools and increase programs districtwide.
Parents and community members continued asking the district why specific schools were chosen and to slow down the process. Right now, the school board is expected to vote on the plan at its November meeting.
There was a theme of distrust among many parents this week from all school communities. People questioned if AISD was trying to make money selling land (one district staff member promised the intention is not to see condos built), and why schools that have been working with the district on new programs are being closed. Many said they felt tricked by the 2017 bond.
“It’s a bait and switch, because in 2017 they told us ‘vote for this,’ and I voted, and we’re gonna make your schools better,” Ruth Tovar, a Brooke Elementary parent, said at the regional meeting Tuesday. “All of a sudden you're closing the schools down now.”
When it came to specific parts of the proposal, district officials did clarify some major questions this week:
At a districtwide meeting Saturday at Austin High School, Superintendent Paul Cruz said part of the goal of closing schools is to build modernized structures. That means completely new buildings, he said, with classrooms and spaces that look completely different from any school in AISD.
Cruz said the district picked pairs of schools to consolidate that had mostly kids in poverty, because it wants to give these students the opportunity of going to a brand-new school.
Like those from last week's meetings, many parents and community members questioned why their schools were on the list. Parents at Ridgetop Elementary asked why the district would disrupt a successful dual-language program at the school. Members of the Joslin Elementary community were confused they were chosen because they have been working with the district to launch a Mandarin immersion program.
AISD has said it will release version 1.1 of this plan, though it's not clear when. The district says this version will include a little more detail about how it decided which schools to close, but would not include any major changes.
At a regional meeting at Northeast High School (formerly Reagan), many parents expressed concern that Northeast would expand to include grades sixth through eighth. Parents at the meeting said they didn't want their middle-school-aged girls to be in a high school setting, and asked if students from Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy – also slated to close – would be assigned to attend Northeast.
The district said no, the middle school program at the high school is optional and nobody would be assigned here. They said students would be assigned to other middle schools, including a new middle school being built in Mueller.
Attendees at the Bertha Sadler Means meeting Friday expressed the same concern. The district's plan is for those students to attend Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders if they want to continue with a single-gender education, but parents said they are worried about the crosstown commute.
The original document published Sept. 5 said that the Digital Arts program at Campbell Elementary would be moved to Blackshear Elementary, even though Campbell was staying open. At a meeting Thursday night, district staff said after hearing from parents they will keep the program at Campbell.
Click on the threads below to see live tweets of parent concerns and the district’s response during each meeting:
Districtwide Meeting At Austin High
Alright friends, I can’t be stopped. I’m at Austin High for the only district wide meeting about school closures. Which means they aren’t focused on a single school community. pic.twitter.com/9COteiYYSV
— Claire McInerny (@ClaireMcInerny) September 28, 2019
It’s a packed house at Ridgetop Elementary, which is proposed for closure.
The group asked for the meeting to be in Soanish, it seems because of the number of people there weren’t enough headsets. So a Spanish translator is just translating for the whole group pic.twitter.com/zcp3OZHaCH
— Claire McInerny (@ClaireMcInerny) September 30, 2019
Regional Meeting at Northeast High School
I’m at Northeast HS (formerly Reagan) tonight for a regional meeting to talk about school changes at Webb, Dobie, Northeast, Ridgetop, Reilly.
(I found another great mural!) pic.twitter.com/Nj36omW3Tm
— Claire McInerny (@ClaireMcInerny) September 30, 2019
Regional Meeting at Martin Middle School
Tonight’s meeting at Martin Middle School is set to discuss changes at Brooke, Govalle, Linder, Pease, Zavala, Metz and Sanchez.
— Claire McInerny (@ClaireMcInerny) October 1, 2019
I’m at the coolest school in South Austin! Joslin Elementary.
Today AISD staff is meeting with parents to talk about a potential closure under the school changes plan. If that happens, these students would go to either Galindo or a modernized St Elmo#AISDSchoolChanges19 pic.twitter.com/Ypd6ALmBpT
— Claire McInerny (@ClaireMcInerny) October 2, 2019
I’m at Dawson Elementary this morning where Austin ISD is holding a public meeting regarding the district’s proposed plan to close and consolidate schools. (The district is proposing to close Dawson.)
— Sangita Menon (@sangitamenon) October 3, 2019
that’s right @KUT I’m here at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary. Under the current @AustinISD proposal, the school could welcome students from Maplewood (if Maplewood closes.) https://t.co/m85si4pZ7u pic.twitter.com/XUqehlaxSL
— Jerry Quijano (@jerryquijano) October 3, 2019
Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy
I’m at Bertha Sadler Means this morning where Austin ISD is holding another public meeting regarding the district’s proposed plan to close and consolidate schools. (The district is proposing to close the school in 2022.)
— Sangita Menon (@sangitamenon) October 4, 2019