Austin ISD is considering a possible relocation of its best school, the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA), as it determines the future of its campuses. The district has started a months-long process to decide which schools to renovate or close, as well as where to possibly build new campuses.
Relocating LASA would be the first time the magnet program has changed locations since it became a separate school in 2007. According to options developed by an outside consultant, there are four places the district is considering to relocate LASA.
“There’s one that has kind of a north and south campus feature with 1,000 students located at Martin Middle School and a 1,000 at Covington Middle School down in South Austin," said Paul Turner, with Austin ISD’s Facilities Department.
If that were to be approved by the Austin School Board, students at Martin and Covington middle schools would shift to nearby high schools, and those high schools would be turned into 6th through 12th grade schools.
The second option by the AISD Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee, or FABPAC, is to keep LASA in one school at Martin Middle School and move Martin students to Eastside Memorial for 6th through 12th grade school.
“A third one is more of larger magnet option at Travis High School," Turner said, referring to the high school located south of Lady Bird Lake along I-35. A more recent option was also floated to put LASA at the old Anderson High School in East Austin.
“There’s probably going to be additional study needed on some of them to look at what kind of cost. As the field narrows, the FABPAC is going to want to be able to examine what the fiscal impact will be," Turner said.
That’s because Austin ISD will need to ask voters to approve bond money to make any of these changes happen.
Austin ISD recently decided to take factors like race and socioeconomic status into account when accepting students to the competitive LASA magnet program. Austin School Board Trustee Ted Gordon says he doesn't want to move that opportunity away from the students zoned for LBJ.
“It's ironic that just as we’re opening up LASA to a wider variety and a wider diversity of students – which would also include regional diversity and, therefore, opening it up to the possibility of more District 1 students being able to attend LASA – we’re talking about removing it from that area," said Gordon, who represents the area. "I think it sends the wrong message.”
He says, right now, he doesn’t support moving LASA – especially if it means moving it out of his district.
“We’re taking a resource of immense value out of an area that traditionally, and also intentionally, has been under-resourced," Gordon said. "It’s going in the wrong direction to be removing resources of that value from our area.”
Gordon says LASA and LBJ need more space for programs, but he supports building on the current site, rather than moving these schools.
The FABPAC met last night to discuss options for middle and high schools. They will come up with a set of recommendations for all the district’s buildings. But the Austin School Board has final approval. The FABPAC will meet again tonight at Fulmore Middle School at 6:15 p.m.