Austin ISD’s decision to close four schools met with backlash from parents, advocates

Earlier this fall, Austin ISD proposed a plan for school changes that included a variety of repurposing and consolidation plans including 12 school closures. They narrowed it down to four schools, three of which are in East Austin, and voted in favor to close them Monday night.

"I honestly think it was all just something they had to say they needed to do, versus really wanting to hear what we had to say," said Landri Torrez, a parent of a Metz student.

Metz, Brooke, Pease and Sims elementary schools will close.

Torrez is already dreading her new morning routine she will have to get used to with her daughter. When changes take effect, she will have to take her daughter to Sanchez Elementary, further from Metz.

"I wake up her around 6:30, get her dressed, we can normally leave the house around 7 and be here by 7:10. The traffic is just going to be outrageously ridiculous. I'm going to have to get up an extra hour and 45 minutes which means waking up my daughter, taking her out of her sleep,” said Torrez.

Not only is she concerned about the traveling, but she is concerned about the history of the school she and her 14 family members all attended.

"It hurts a lot because this was my school. It isn't just any school I decided to bring my daughter to,” said Torrez.

Last night the board voted 6-3 to close the four schools. The decision was unwelcomed and even seen as racist by the district's own equity officer.

"The map that you have of the closures is a map of what 21st-century racism looks like," AISD equity officer Stephanie Hawley said.

"They gave up on our children, they gave up on our community. I felt that our voices weren't heard,” advocate Bertha Rendon-Delgado said.

Rendon-Delgado has nephews who attend Metz. She says East Austin schools have for a long time been ignored.

"We don’t understand where we are not connecting here when we are telling you this is not an equity plan when we are telling you that this is racism in front of you, and you're still making a decision to go against what your constituents are saying,” said Rendon-Delgado.

East Austin native Jared Breckenridge believes the district could have resulted to alternatives before closures.

"I took the time to sit down and see what's really going on. When I first did that I discovered there is an injustice happening here. A certain demographic are being impacted the most by this,” said Breckenridge.

Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz mentioned the other facets of the plan besides closures at Monday's meeting

"It is about teachers in classrooms, strategic staffing, it is about academic excellence and academic rigor and it is about the support we are providing our special needs students,” said Cruz.

Rendon-Delgado says the fight to save East Austin schools is not over, and they will likely take legal action.

"East Austin leaders, educators, advocates, and parents are so upset that this is our only choice to file a lawsuit," said Rendon-Delgado.