Concerns raised over possible east side school closures, as vote looms

Deborah Trejo is not only a parent, but she served on a task force designed to help guide Austin ISD on money management. She has her concerns about the new school changes plan which recommended some closures.

“What we had hoped, those of us on budget stabilization and I think lots of other community members, that the district would step back and look at some of the boundaries and attendance zones, which are in large part based on segregated neighborhoods and keeping those largely in place, that it would step back and think boldly about how to diversify,” she said.

The district recommends 12 schools, all east of Lamar Boulevard, be closed.

“Equity has to be at the forefront. I think we can't ignore the way the school attendance zones were drawn. Some schools on the west side have very large attendance zones to keep them full, and on the east, they have very small attendance zones,” said Trejo.
She knows closures are sometimes inevitable, but the district should take a pause.

“If you would rezone and balance west and east populations in proximity to schools close to them, everybody would be treated fairly, not just schools on the east side get closed,” said Trejo.

“I think we understand there are strong emotions and passions that come forward, but seeing that passion that people have for the Austin Independent School District has been rewarding, as has some of the excitement we've heard for the programs we are putting forward,” said Reyne Telles, executive director of communication and engagement at Austin ISD.

On Monday night, the school board met for a work session to discuss the plan and each member's personal concerns. Telles said many factors went into these recommendations but they are not set in stone. Some factors were under-enrollment, and building age in some schools east of I-35.

“Some are at or below 60 percent capacity I think some are below 50. Also last school year we had over 80,000 building and maintenance requests…. 80,000, we have 80,000 students, so that's one per student,” said Telles.

Trejo feels the closures vote in November is too soon. She believes the district has good intentions, but she wants future plans to be executed fairly.

“The proposal has a lot more than just school changes and the desire to have the district provide great schools to all children. I just want them to do that in a holistic way,” said Trejo.