After nearly six hours, the Austin School Board passed its 25-year Facility Master Plan at around 3 a.m. today. The $4.6 billion plan passed on a 6-3 vote.
The plan is a set of recommendations put forth by the district’s Facility and Bond Planning Advisory Committee (FABPAC) to update campuses and technology. It calls for tough decisions that could change school boundaries, as well as consolidate and possibly close some schools. It also includes moving the Liberal Arts and Science Academy (LASA) magnet school off the LBJ High campus.
For some board members, the facility plan reopened old wounds. Trustee Ted Gordon, who represents East Austin's District 1, cast one of the three dissenting votes. He said the “target utilization plan” – a recent addition that aims to increase enrollment at underutilized schools before they are considered for closure – won’t help schools in his district.
“There are some things that you can’t advertise for,” he said. “If you’ve got schools that are black and brown and poor and failing, no matter how much advertising you do, you’re not going to get kids to go to those schools.”
Gordon’s amendment to keep LASA on the LBJ campus did not pass. He had said he would not vote for the plan if it included moving LASA.
Parents and alumni of schools slated for changes were thankful last night as their elementary schools were spared – at least temporarily – by the plan. L.C. Anderson High School alumni were leery over what’s next for their historic facility. And LBJ High School alumni were present, hoping to keep LASA on its campus.
“We see you looking directly at one of the best ideas ever to be implemented in education in Austin,” said Sam Turner, an attorney and LBJ alum. “[It's] a program that had as one of its goals a redress of historical institutional racism, and, no matter what you tell yourself, you’re on the verge of rolling it back with your eyes open.”
District 7 Trustee Yasmin Wagner, who represents Southwest Austin, voted in favor of the plan, but seemed frustrated by the debate.
“I think it’s unfortunate that politics are getting in the way of us being able to unanimously pass a Facility Master Plan that is a reflection of, literally, thousands of hours of work, thousands of points of community feedback, dozens upon dozens of community engagement effort that is all reflected in this work,” Wagner said after six hours of debate
Trustees discussed several amendments before the final vote. Among those that passed:
- An amendment to move up the timeline for pursuing a middle school at Mueller
- An amendment to prioritize the refurbishing and re-purposing of the original L.C. Anderson High School
- An amendment to prioritize marketing and communications for any under-enrolled school noted in the target utilization plan.