Education
11:31 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

AISD Task Force Won't Name Specific Campuses On Its List Of Closure Options

No more naming schools names for possible closure. That's the decision of an Austin ISD task force responsible for coming up with options for the district's facilities.

This Facility Master Plan task force began meeting last Spring. It was supposed to develop a list of options for the district to manage its facilities: its schools, its offices, its warehouses, that kind of thing. But the process was quickly interrupted by parents last month who were traumatized when a draft list of options began naming specific schools as facilities that could be closed.

Now, the task force is going to stop doing that. Co-chair Janet Mitchell says naming names not only caused tremendous stress to the communities involved, but also made it look like the task force was recommending those schools be closed.

"We're not in the recommendation business. We're in the options business," Mitchell said after a thee hour task force meeting Tuesday night. "The board, the superintendent, they need to take those tough calls based on local community engagement."

But omitting school names from the list of options also plays into the hands of parent activists whose campuses have already been named. Jason Sabo has a child in Barton Hills Elementary, which is one of those schools.

"No school is safe. If they're beginning to move away from the idea of putting schools by name on this list, every parent, and everyone in Austin who cares about public education should go to sleep tonight a little bit nervous," Sabo said. "Because if my school is on the chopping block, yours could be tomorrow."

The reality is they should already be nervous - and not just because of school closures. Austin ISD is facing a projected deficit of $113 million. The Superintendent says it’s the largest she's ever seen, and it's based on relatively optimistic projections. Depending on how the state legislature distributes cuts to education, AISD's budget gap could be almost twice that amount by some estimates.