Parents fight to keep South Austin schools open



Posted on January 10, 2011 at 6:29 PM

The Austin Independent School District is bracing for as much as a $100 million budget short fall. That means some campuses could be closed.  Among them are Zilker Elementary and Barton Hills Elementary.

Two-month-old  Benjamin does not know it yet, but his parents are fighting to keep his future elementary school open.

“We bought the house because we wanted to be in the Zilker area with a good elementary school,” Erica Leak said.

As AISD struggles with as much as a $100 million district wide budget shortfall, Zilker Elementary and Barton Hills Elementary could be shut down in a cost saving move. 

“Its very scary obviously,” Leak explained.

Last year the district formed a task force to come up with a comprehensive cost cutting plan for AISD. Monday the task force will present its recommendations to the school board.

Erica Leak fears those recommendations will not take into account the growing number of new families with small children moving into the Zilker neighborhood

“There are five babies on our block alone whose parents moved here so their kids could go to Zilker Elementary,” she said.

Meredith Newman has two children at Barton Hills. She does not want to see it closed either.

“I am upset,” Newman said. “A lot of parents are upset.”

Hundreds gathered at both schools Monday morning to form a plan of attack.  They even put together a Facebook page to mobilize families.

“We are going to fight this with everything we have,” Newman said. “Basically just by showing up at every meeting and hoping that are voice is heard.”

According to numbers provided by the schools, five years ago Zilker Elementary had 468 students. Now it has 533. Barton Hills had 334, and now it has 375.

Both schools are exemplary. Leak says if the districts mission is to provide exemplary education, then the district should not accomplish that by closing exemplary schools.

“It’s also really strange and maybe ironic that the school system would consider shutting down two of the better ranked elementary schools in the system,” Leak said.