AUSTIN, Texas - Austin ISD Board of trustees unanimously voted to call a $1.05 billion bond election in November. Now it will be in the hands of voters
The bond consists of 32 projects, 16 are for new or modernized schools. Public comment started around 7:00 p.m. Tuesday with 30 people signed up to speak. Many were in support of the $70 million for Ann Richards School and also in support of building a northeast middle school in the Mueller development. That new school was just recently added back onto the project list. The bond is a little over a billion dollars but the district says it will not result in a tax increase. An amendment was also added to the bond. AISD says contingency funds will be used to prioritize overcrowding in the northwest part of the district along with Blazier, Cowan and Baranoff Elementaries.
"We have different opinions, I get that. But, at the end of the day we have to make a decision and we have to move forward. That's just the way it is. It's not about the end, it's really about the beginning of the work. This is phase 1 of a 25 year facility master plan. This is just the first few years, there's more to come. This is not it, this is certainly a very strong beginning," says Dr. Paul Cruz, superintendent, Austin Independent School District.
The bond did not come without controversy.
"It's hard, it's hard because a lot of these kids live nearby. They would rather be at school than at home. What does that tell you?" says Hilda Villalobos-Alvarez, parent.
Hilda Villalobos-Alvarez spoke with FOX 7 in tears. Her son attends Eastside Memorial High. According to one of the bond projects, it could be moved into the old Anderson High campus. LASA, or the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, which is currently in LBJ High School would then be moved to Eastside.
"It's not good for our kids. You know, they've already gone through so much and for them to be asked to move? We have a lot of land out there. Why don't they build LASA a brand new school? Keep us where we're at," says Villalobos-Alvarez.
Parents and volunteers recently protested the plan. They say they were told by the district the move was in regards to under-enrollment.
"The kids are not failing the school, even though Eastside Memorial has an "F" in its report card right now. It's the adults," says Monica Sanchez, Eastside Memorial volunteer.
Chito Vela says when it comes to the bond projects, East Austin is not being represented fairly.
"We need to address the history of segregation and the traditional fiddle that the East Austin schools have played," says Chito Vela, state representative candidate.
But, trustees have decided to add the new northeast middle school in the Mueller development back to the project list. Austin ISD says they have prioritized needs when it comes to the bond, such as "worst first." Several new or modernized schools were proposed to relieve overcrowding and help campuses where severity of deficiencies were beyond repair. There are also technology improvements and transportation projects proposed district-wide.
"Invest in the educational resources in the community, especially if we want to stop the bleeding of students to other academic opportunities or the continuing transfers of East Austin students to West Austin," says Vela.
Austin ISD also addressed rumors about potentially closing some schools to bring down the cost of the $1.05 billion bond. They sent FOX 7 a statement:
"When making decisions about small, under-enrolled schools with significant facilities needs and uncertain future viable student populations, we must consider everything-it would be irresponsible not to. As part of this process we have considered all possibilities, which does include potential property sales. It is too soon to say which properties may or may not be sold or when, but we have a financial responsibility to Austin taxpayers."