Despite fierce opposition to previous plans to shutter 9 schools with the Austin Independent School District, district staff provided new recommendations to the task force to consider closing additional schools. After two very vocal and contentious meetings with the public, the task force became well aware of the overwhelming opposition to the previously announced list of potential closures. While everyone is aware that budgetary problems are forthcoming, very few people are in support of shuttering schools as the main way to overcome financial shortfalls. Other recommendations were presented by the public, including closing some administrative offices instead, including the district headquarters on West 6th Street which sits on what has become very desirable (thus, valuable) land.
The task force responded by announcing that they would consider an “Administrative Option” before submitting their final recommendations to the district. Then, suddenly on Tuesday, district staff added a handful of new scenarios that would close additional schools, much to the surprise of parents who are watching the issue very closely. In today’s Austin American-Statesman, a detailed article on the front page outlined the new proposals:
• Becker Elementary – Close Becker at an estimated average savings of $1.17 million per year over the next 10 years. Students at Becker would be reassigned to Dawson.
• Dawson Elementary – Close Dawson at an estimated average savings of $1.43 million per year over the next 10 years. Students at Dawson would be reassigned to Becker. Obviously, the Becker and Dawson scenarios are dependent on one another.
• Blackshear Elementary – Close Blackshear for an estimated average savings of $1.0 million per year over the next 10 years. Students at Blackshear would be reassigned to Oaks Springs and Zavala. This decision would obviously remove Oak Springs from the original list of potential closures.
• Govalle Elementary – Close Govalle for an estimated average savings of $1.38 million per year over the next 10 years. Students from Govalle would be reassigned to Allan, Oak Springs, and Ortega. Both Oak Springs and Ortega were on the original potential closure list, making these decisions dependent on one another. It is uncertain from the information released from the district if Govalle could be closed if either Oak Springs or Ortega was also closed. Given that all three schools are over 50% capacity, enrollment figures would suggest that Govalle’s closure would require both Oak Springs and Ortega to remain open, unless another transfer destination is identified.
• Overton Elementary, Jordan Elementary, and Garcia Middle School – Realign grades at Overton Elementary, Jordan Elementary, and Garcia Middle School. Some students in this scenario would be reassigned to Pearce Middle School. Oddly, this recommendation wouldn’t save the district any money and would actually cost roughly $1.1 million to retrofit Garcia. It is unclear why such a move would be prudent at this time. Pearce Middle School was on the original list of potential closures, so this option would indicate that Pearce would need to remain open if Garcia is closed.
• Eastside Memorial High Schools – Currently two ‘separate’ schools operate out of the same building, Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School and Eastside Memorial Global Tech High School. The school board on Monday agreed to either consolidate or close completely both schools if they fail to meet state academic standards. Failing this year would make it the third year the schools were graded as below standards.
The original list, according to Paul Turner, Facilities Director for AISD, has not been altered in light of the previous public opposition. The schools on the initial list of potential closures are all still options. Those schools are Barton Hills, Brooke, Joslin, Oak Springs, Ortega, Pease, Sanchez, and Zilker elementary schools, as well as Pearce Middle School.
Mission Mortgage has been covering this story since it first broke and you can read our previous blog post and subsequent updates by clicking here.
To read today’s Austin American-Statesman story, click here.