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Austin ISD updated 'School Changes' plan to be released Friday afternoon, could include closures

Earlier this week, Education Austin asked the AISD school board to postpone its school closures vote for a year.

AUSTIN, Texas — An updated version of Austin ISD's School Changes plan will be released on Friday afternoon and could include closures or consolidations, the district said on Thursday.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Austin ISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz said the district is working on an updated version of its School Changes plan after hearing community feedback.

Cruz said in response to the concern the district has heard, AISD will work on a "phased timeline for School Changes that creates space for even deeper community conversations and planning."

The updated changes will only include scenarios that could be enacted for the 2020-21 school year.

Scenarios that would not be enacted in the 2020-21 school year could be considered in the spring after additional planning and changes, AISD said.

Some scenarios from the original document have been withdrawn for consideration.

Cruz said the district doesn't think no change at all is an option.

"No students should have to wait for their opportunity to succeed, and no change can come fast enough if it means higher achievement and improved academic outcomes for all students," Cruz said.

The changes could include district-wide systemic changes, closures for consolidations, boundary changes and programmatic additions or expansions, the school district confirmed on Thursday.

Cruz said the district will bring the community an updated proposal focused on changes AISD can make in the 2020-21 school year, which will include proposals to:

  • Incentivize highly effective teachers at underperforming schools
  • Strengthen the academic core at every campus
  • Improve the special education system
  • Implement cultural proficiency and inclusivity training throughout the district
  • Expand school hours to 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., prioritizing schools affected by changes

Cruz also said that all AISD employees in good standing that may be affected by School Changes proposals are guaranteed a job at their current staffing level or higher.

This statement comes just a few days after Education Austin, the teachers' and employees' union for AISD, asked the school board to delay its controversial school closures vote for a year.

Read Cruz's full statement below: 

"Thank you for your thoughtful feedback and meaningful engagement in the conversations we have been having these last few weeks surrounding School Changes. 

After meeting with stakeholders throughout our community, we can all agree on a shared purpose: Every student should have a high-quality education, taught by highly qualified and well-compensated teachers, in an inspiring and welcoming environment conducive to learning. We all want every student to graduate high school prepared to succeed in life. 

We must deepen our commitment to equity for every student throughout the district. This work must be deliberate, inclusive and student-centered. To realize this vision, we are committed to spending our limited resources wisely by investing in people and programs — not on empty seats and costly repairs to aging buildings. Doing this will expand our capacity to further the critical work of bringing out the true genius of every young individual, while bringing an end to the days where ZIP codes determine destiny.

We understand from our communities that change is hard, and collaboration is essential to design the best outcomes for our students. We listened, and we hear you. In response to this concern, you will see a phased timeline for School Changes that creates space for even deeper community conversations and planning.

At the same time, my team and I believe deeply that no change at all is not an option. No students should have to wait for their opportunity to succeed, and no change can come fast enough if it means higher achievement and improved academic outcomes for all students.

Please know that community feedback is informing our plans. With the allotted 2017 Bond money and space available in our schools, we will bring you an updated proposal focused on the changes we can make in the 2020–21 school year.

In the updated version, we will present you with important districtwide changes that include proposals to: 

  • Incentivize highly effective teachers at under-performing schools,
  • Strengthen the academic core at every campus,
  • Improve our special education systems,
  • Implement cultural proficiency and inclusivity training throughout the district, and
  • Expand school hours to 6 a.m.–6:30 p.m., prioritizing schools affected by changes.

We have also heard questions and concerns about employment stability for our principals, teachers and staff. I am making a clear and firm commitment to you and to the community we serve that all AISD employees in good standing that may be affected by our proposals for School Changes are guaranteed a job at their current staffing level or higher.

We value the history and passion of every school community in Austin, and we also recognize the cost to maintain aging buildings and under-enrolled schools. We must make strategic changes and unite communities to make our district stronger. I hope you will join me in celebrating the differences of each community as we weave them together to support our students.

I look forward to our continued work as we guide the future of our district and reinvent public education in Austin."

WATCH: Austin ISD families fight to save East Austin schools

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