East Austin resident Archette Alexander remembers when she took her son out of the neighborhood public elementary school and put him in a charter school. She says teachers had lost their passion due to all of the testing.
Now, Alexander’s youngest daughter is three, and she’s interested in putting her back in the school district – at AISD's early childhood center.
“The passion the other teachers have gives me hope as a parent that kids can thrive here,” Alexander says.
Parents and teachers got a chance to tour the school last month. It will open to three-year-olds in the neighborhood this fall for half-days. The district plans to partner with an outside agency to run an infant through two-year-old program. It's also hopeful a partner agency will allow it to offer full day pre-K instead of just half day classes.
“They saw this big gap in early childhood space and lots of parents needing those services,” Austin Voices' Allen Weeks says. “It wasn’t just 'we don’t need an elementary,' it’s 'Oh my God, we have another need that this facility is almost perfectly set up for.'”
He says the number of toddlers in the area is growing, due to a diverse set of families who have diverse needs.
“For kids to have that language ability going into pre-K already is hugely influential on their success down the road,” Weeks says.
The campus has been a source of tension between the district and the community for more than three years. In 2011, the district partnered with charter educator IDEA Public Schools to create an in-district charter there. Many in the community opposed the proposal, and a newly elected school board eventually voted to end the contract. Last year, the school district signed a nearly $75,000 contract with Austin Voices to work with the community to determine Allan’s future.
“They did recognize there was a lack of trust, a lack of respect that the community had toward district and they’ve done a lot of work to change that,” Pride of the Eastside member Vincent Tovar says.
Tovar says Austin Voices has been a great ally. The district also wants to create a STEM center for science, technology, engineering and math studies – and create a smaller middle school program.
But first the school board has to approve a partner to help run the early childhood center. The board is scheduled to vote on that on June 16.