Education
11:12 am
Mon September 26, 2011

AISD Withholds New Facility Master Plan Recommendation Until Tonight

The Austin Independent School District operates more than 100 schools in the city covering 12 million square feet. Some of those schools are overcrowded. Others that are way under-capacity.

A plan developed this year to deal with that was shelved, after school board members found the notion of school closures politically unpalatable.  A revised version of that facilities master plan will be unveiled tonight.

In an unusual move, the Austin Independent School District is refusing to release the proposed facility master plan to the public until immediately before it is presented to the school board.

Normally, agenda items must be posted to the district's website at least 72 hours before the meeting. But district staff says the facility master plan is still in a draft form, and therefore is not subject to Texas Open Meetings Act.

The district instead is offering media outlets to review the document at 2 p.m. under the condition that they not release any details on the plan until 10 p.m.

However, the Austin ISD has posted an executive summary of the document online. And Superintendent Meria Carstarphen wrote on her blog that there will be no list of schools recommended for closure. The board will not take any action on the plan until November.

The executive summary says the new facilities master plan has four main differences from the original plan the board adopted and then shelved in the spring.

  1. The original report by the Facility Master Plan Task Force, a group of citizen volunteers, used something called the Facility Condition Index (FCI) to evaluate the condition of existing buildings and how much should be spent on repairs. Some parents in schools slated for closure said that data was flawed.  The new recommendation instead relies on a formula used by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
  2. The district acknowledged that the original report's recommendations appeared to focus on school closures and consolidation to address AISD's budget shortfall. The district says the new recommended plan prioritizes student education over operational efficiency.
  3. The district says the new recommended Facility Master Plan considers the actual capacity of a building, rather than just its officially designated capacity.
  4. The original plan considered schools under 85 percent capacity to be underused, and those over 105 percent to be over-capacity. The new recommendation uses a range of 75 percent to 115 percent.

Separately, the school board is scheduled to vote tonight on a one-year extension of Superintendent Carstarphen’s contract. Her salary and benefits would stay the same. But her contract would not expire until June 2014.