AUSTIN, Texas — A long night turned into an early morning for leaders with Austin Independent School District.
AISD board members gathered Monday night to take a close look at their budget and figure out a plans of action for certain schools regarding closures, consolidation and new programming options. The meeting adjourned at 12:52 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The number of kids in AISD's schools has been declining for six consecutive years now, and that's a trend the district is expecting will continue.
The notion to close some of the low-enrolled schools has existed for a couple of decades now. It started when the Texas School Performance Review claimed there were underused Austin schools and suggested shutting some of them down.
After years of putting off a decision, AISD leaders are starting to put together a plan that would reduce the number of campuses. Beyond school closures, the potential plan includes other adjustments, such as staff reductions and a 5-percent cut to school supplies.
On Tuesday night, district leaders discussed about taking action quickly, creating a timeline for the proposed changes.
According to AISD, the administration has asked the board to provide direction in looking into campus efficiency options beginning at their February 25th meeting, with expectations to see preliminary results as early as May 2019.
Any campuses impacted by changes would not go into effect until August of 2020.
Per the district's initial timeline, the plan's criteria and guiding principles would have been set in place by April. Administrators would lay out what schools they think should be shut down in May. Eventually, trustees would make a decision as early as June.
If schools are closed, Superintendent Paul Cruz said the number of students won't be the only factor in making that decision. The actual physical condition of the schools and the level of education will also play a role.
In January, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Kathie Tovo brought up the idea of turning some of these potentially closed campuses into affordable housing or new city parks.
Thursday, the public will get a chance to ask district leaders questions about their plan for the schools during a FB live. Cruz is hosting the FB live at 1:30 p.m. where he will further discuss facility efficiencies. If you'd like to participate, visit the Austin ISD Facebook page here.
Looking ahead, the district will host Budget Town Hall Listening Sessions beginning Tuesday, Feb. 19 at Travis Early College High School from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Subsequent meetings will be Feb. 21 at Reagan ECHS (6-7:30) and Feb. 23 at Austin HS (11-12:30).