After months of heated public debate, the task force in charge of recommending changes to the Austin Independent School District (AISD) facilities master plan have submitted their final report. Most glaring is the absence of any specific recommendations for school closures. The bulk of the public interest in this process was centered around which, if any, schools would be slated to be closed.
Public meetings were packed with parents, teachers, and students of potentially impacted schools pleading with the task force members to look at other options before putting schools on the list. Signs can be seen throughout Austin in neighborhoods where schools on the initial ‘Possible Closure’ list are located. As recently as last week, a lone protestor held a sign at the Austin City Council meeting showing her support for keeping Zilker Elementary School open.
As it turns out, the task force took an entirely different approach when making their final recommendations. No specific schools are identified for closure. No language is included that presents criteria for how to close schools in the future. The report barely mentions the closures when it states,
a. Consider consolidating/closing one middle school.
b. Consider consolidating/closing eight elementary schools.”
Instead, the report focuses on other areas where facilities money can be saved. Most notably, the cost of repairs was cut by roughly $47 million from the previous estimates of $320 million.
The report also addresses why some schools are overcrowded while others are under-utilized. According to the report,
“A logical solution to improve efficiencies among overcrowded and under-utilized schools is to adjust the attendance boundaries and assign more or fewer students as appropriate. In practice, it is not that simple. In some cases, under-utilization occurs when a large number of students migrate to schools outside of their geographical attendance zone. Increasing the size of the boundary of the under-utilized school will not fix the problem.”
The report took a look at the use of portable classrooms and the higher maintenance costs they create. There are currently 668 portables in use by AISD and the report believes that creating a usage threshold of 85% would identify some portables that are no longer necessary. The task force says,
“There is a potential to reduce the total number of portables in the District by 108, using the above criteria of 85% utilization. Based on a minimum annual operating cost of $4.00 per square foot, this would result in an annual savings of $663,552.”
Oddly missing from this portion of the report is the cost to remove those portables. Apparently, the savings in maintenance can only be achieved if the unused buildings simply stay put but are no longer used.
We have been covering this story for months because of its potential impact on real estate sales and values. Unless (or until) specific schools are identified, the impact on localized real estate transactions cannot be determined. We will continue to monitor the story and will provides updates, if necessary, to keep you informed on the future of AISD schools.
Here are links to our previous stories:
AISD Considers School Closures
AISD School Closure Considers Alternatives
More AISD Schools Added to Closure List
To see the complete report by the task force, please click here.