The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees discussed transition plans for the four schools it voted to close at last month’s meeting at a work session Monday night.
Board members asked the district to improve its communication to families and staff. Many said they want school communities to have clear and timely information about their school closing and moving to a new school.
Trustee Ann Teich pointed out that these transition plans hadn’t been translated to Spanish. She worried some parents at Brooke Elementary wouldn’t have all the information as they decide where their child will go to school next year.
Teich, who voted against closing these four schools last month, also said the district should focus on the transition of these four schools before it continues with the rest of its closure plan, as a way to make sure the transitioning students are supported through this change.
“That’s why I’m going to encourage us to just not move forward with any other proposals at this point, until we make sure that we accomplish what we want to accomplish with these particular closures,” Teich said. “Which is to reinvest the money back into the schools.”
The transition plans say that starting in January, AISD will schedule community meetings to discuss how to transition Brooke, Metz, Pease and Sims elementary school students to their new schools.
These plans address enrollment, transportation, transfer of special education services, the timeline for packing up schools, PTA consolidation and staffing needs and professional development.
During the November vote, the district determined which schools students at Brooke, Metz and Sims would be moved to. Because students transfer into Pease, however, AISD officials said they want to know how many Pease families will choose to go to their assigned schools before outlining a transition plan.
If a large number of parents indicate they want their children to stay downtown, AISD will consolidate Pease with Zavala, a school on the east side of Interstate 35.
Trustee Amber Elenz, who represents Pease, said she also wants to see a detailed plan for the schools, like Zavala, that will receive students from a closed school.
“It’s one of the biggest concerns that Pease has expressed about doing this,” she told district staff. “They don’t want to invade another school community and I think the really heavy lifting in bringing those communities together has got to be very intentional.”
The board also discussed what to do with schools once they are empty. In a document uploaded to the board’s website, the district writes, “The Board requires that any determinations be made in line with objectives including community use, affordable housing, or workforce housing and are also fiscally advantageous for the District.”
According to the document, the district will explore options including leasing and selling buildings, or using them for affordable housing or other community needs. It says it will seek community input on each site, so they could all end up being something different.
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