UPDATE (January 20, 2011)
Plenty of new developments have occurred in the AISD closure controversy over the past week. After hearing from the public in two well-attended and sometimes emotional meetings, the task force in charge of the project has announced some possible new solutions to their impending budget shortfall.
Closing schools became a hot topic in Austin when the task force outlined a list of nine schools to be considered for shuttering in order to save the district money. Parents, teachers, community leaders and students showed up in masses to voice their opposition to the proposal. While many who spoke publicly at the meetings addressed the proposal emotionally, pleading with the representatives to reconsider closing schools, some came to the microphone with proposals that the task force admitted not having considered.
As a result, the task force has found some internal support for consideration of an alternative plan…now being referred to as the “Administrative Option”. Instead of closing schools, members of the public suggested closing expensive and underutilized administrative space, such as the AISD Headquarters located on West 5th Street.
A new proposal has been drafted by two members of the task force who will present it to the full committee for consideration before a final decision is made. That decision is expected to come as early as March. The new draft also includes recommendations to delay construction on two planned elementary schools.
Seems as though there is plenty of inexpensive, underutilized space at the nearly vacant Highland Mall that the district could lease or purchase for use as their new headquarters, while selling their existing administrative building on West 5th in a what has recently become a very popular area of downtown.
Many articles have spelled out the update, but we recommend the story in today’s Austin American-Statesman for more details. You can read that story by clicking here.
You can also visit the AISD website for the latest “official” information. Click here to view the AISD website Facility Master Plan page.
UPDATE (January 13, 2010)
The first of two meetings seeking public input on the potential school closures took place last night at the Delco Center. Hundreds of parents, teachers, students, and community members filled the room as they sought to refute the recommendations of the task force. Protest signs made clear that those in attendance were almost unanimously against the idea. Out of the throng of attendees, 60 were chosen by random drawing and given the opportunity to address the AISD representatives and the others in attendance. All but one voiced opposition to the plan to close the schools…at least the school that they had a vested interest in seeing remain open. One interesting counter-proposal voiced and reiterated throughout the night suggested selling the district’s current headquarters on West 6th Street in an area that would command a premium price. The task force admitted not having considered that option before making their closure recommendations. The only other alternative suggested was for district administrators to take a pay cut, though this would not likely provide enough savings to address the expected shortfall.
A second public meeting is scheduled for tonight (Jan. 13) at the Burger Activity Center from 6-8 pm and we would anticipate that a similar result will occur. Given the closer proximity to two of the hotbed schools, Zilker Elementary and Barton Hills Elementary, tonight’s meeting is likely to be filled.
Numerous stories have been posted in the media this morning. Here are links to a few:
• from Community Impact Newspaper, Southwest Austin
• from the Austin American-Statesman
• from KXAN
• from the Austin Chronicle
UPDATE (January 12, 2010)
In what’s becoming the hot button issue of the week, another story in today’s Austin American-Statesman provides additional information about the upcoming decisions on schools closures for the Austin Independent School District (AISD). While community opposition has been noted, the budget shortfalls are still driving the decision making and some recommendations will need to be made by March, according to the article. Statements by co-chairs of the task force, Janet Mitchell and Richard Frazier, illustrate the difficulties of making these decisions.
The feasibility and costs associated with operating schools that are under capacity is the main focus of the task force, who are assigned the extremely difficult duties of recommending specific school closures. While each community wants to see their local school kept open, the cost of doing so is more than the current budget can handle. Predicted shortfalls in the state budget are looming large this legislative session, which kicked off yesterday in Austin.
To see the most recent article, click here.
UPDATE (January 11, 2011)
The Austin American-Statesman is reporting a list that differs from the list originally posted below. For the complete Statesman story, click here.
In addition, Stephanie Hebert added a comment to this post and provided a great link to the actual AISD Facility Master Plan Meeting Notes from December 14th that outlines the current proposals and provides details about the process. Click here to see the meeting notes (the document is in PDF format and is approximately 4.5 MB). Thanks, Stephanie!
The original story as posted on this blog on Monday, January 10 follows below.
Spending cuts are the big topic for the Austin Independent School District as they gear up to face large potential shortfalls in operational funding, rumored to be around $20 million. The entire State of Texas is facing budgetary red ink and it has been said that every department will have to find ways to cut spending for the upcoming fiscal year. With that in mind, AISD is considering closing down a few of their schools entirely to save money.
WHICH SCHOOLS ARE ON THE LIST?
The process of deciding to close a school requires input from many different players. The list of schools currently being considered for shuttering include:
• Pearce Middle School – 6401 N. Hampton Dr., Austin, TX 78723
• Hill Elementary (A Blue Ribbon School) – 8601 Tallwood Drive, Austin, TX 78759
• Brooke Elementary – 3100 East 4th St., Austin, TX 78702
• Joslin Elementary – 4500 Manchaca Rd., Austin, TX 78745
• Oak Springs Elementary -3601 Webberville Rd., Austin TX 78702
• Ortega Elementary – 1135 Garland Ave., Austin, TX 78721
• Pease Elementary – 1106 Rio Grande, Austin, TX 78701
• Sanchez Elementary – 73 San Marcos, Austin, TX 78702
• Zilker Elementary (A Blue Ribbon School) – 1900 Bluebonnet Lane, Austin, TX78704
Earlier reports indicated Allan, Dawson, and Zavala Elementaries were also being considered for closure, but the district has since indicated that these schools are not on the list. Barton Hills Elementary was also rumored to be in the mix when their principal sent letters to parents warning that the school might be closed, but that school is also not on the “official” list.
YOUR OPINIONS ARE NEEDED
Recognizing the delicate situation of making these types of decisions, AISD is calling on members of the community to voice their opinions at two upcoming meetings arranged specifically for hearing from the public. The meetings are scheduled as followed:
January 12, 2011 • 6 – 8 pm • Delco Center, 4601 Pecan Brook Drive.
January 13, 2011 • 6 – 8 pm • Burger Activity Center, 3200 Jones Road.
The final plan is due February 12 and no further public meetings are planned at this time. If you’d like to have your opinion considered, plan to attend one of the two meetings listed above. For more information about the meetings, please visit the AISD website.