Austin ISD Outgrows Its Facilities
People love Austin. They are moving here in droves. And they bring their kids with them. And they enroll their kids in the local school district. But the school district can’t build fast enough to accommodate everyone. So some campuses are getting really, really crowded.
The Austin school district will build two new elementary schools in north Austin over the next couple of years and add classrooms at other campuses. But that’s not going to be enough to fix the problem.
“There’s almost not a single part of town that’s not growing,” said Ryan Robinson, a demographer for the city of Austin. He’s been watching closely which parts of town are attracting families with children. One of them is central North Austin, where there are clusters of affordable homes.
“And in many cases, it’s an international immigrant family and they’re quite large,” Robinson said. “Or they’re an extended family.”
Another place of high growth is the suburbs of south Austin — east, west and central.
“You’ve still got some traditional single-family subdivision activity going in, and those neighborhoods are big time attractors for families with children,” he said.
Those are the same parts of town where schools are the most overcrowded. Across the district, 25 schools exceed functional capacity: there are more kids there than the schools were built to handle, even after accounting for portables and extra classroom space.
“You’ll have lunch periods that begin 10:30 in the morning and run into the early afternoon,” said Paul Turner, who is in charge of all the buildings and facilities owned by Austin ISD. He’s helping to provide information to a citizens committee that is putting together a bond package.
The bond package will probably include items to help deal with overcrowding. But Turner says there might be even more urgent considerations.
“If the roof’s leaking, if water is getting in and causing mold to grow, if the air conditioning doesn’t work,” he said. There are all manner of things.”
All those crucial repairs carry a $300 million price tag. So there goes a huge chunk of any potential bond.
Then there are competing priorities: improving athletic facilities, increasing fine arts resources, special education, career and technology programs.
But overcrowding issues are definitely on the short list. And it’s still early in the game. The Austin school board will hold public hearings on the bond after receiving recommendations from a citizens advisory committee in January.
Austin voters are scheduled to vote on the bond in May.