Pease Elementary students fight to keep historic school from AISD closure list

Monday morning began with a protest as students from the historic Pease Elementary walked to City Hall chanting "Save Pease" and fighting to keep their school from the chopping block.

Pease, along with Sims, Metz and Brooke elementaries are on a list of potential closures. Students who go there will move to other campuses. It's all part of "phase one" of Austin ISD's controversial "school changes plan."

This is the second version of this plan: at one time the number of school closures was 12.

"Closing any single campus is a decision that should be appreciated with the maximum amount of deliberation and measured attention," said Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison. 

A broad coalition of city, county and state leaders along with parents, teachers, and students gathered at City Hall urging the AISD trustees to slow down and engage the community before they do this.

"Our hope is the school district will vote to delay this vote until we have a comprehensive equity analysis that tells us how our communities and the neighbors in the communities are being served," said Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion.

Travillion says the district should revisit the plan and really look at each campus, even if that particular school is under-populated.

"This plan was designed during a period of time when there was a multi-million-dollar deficit, a $47 million deficit. But HB 3 has infused more than $80 million into the school district so it's in a positive cash position," Travillion said.

Commissioner Travillion says he wants to see inequities better managed.

"Because what we find is a disproportionate number of schools being closed are in minority communities. And those communities and those schools are the centerpiece of the neighborhood," Travillion said.

"We can't have this east, west divide. I've never stood for that and I still don't," said state Rep. Sheryl Cole (D-Austin).  

Cole says she understands considering fiscal responsibility but we have to understand how that helps educate.

"Stand up and say 'if this much of the community is unhappy with it and if we have been that unfair to East Austin, it doesn't matter if you're just talking about four schools, 14 schools or one school,' don't do it today!" Cole said.  

Tonight's meeting starts at 6 p.m. 

According to the district's plan, Pease Elementary will be repurposed to support AISD media and archives as well as a social justice center.