AUSTIN, Texas — The future of one of Austin's first elementary schools was up for discussion at a community meeting Wednesday night.

Palm School -- located on Cesar Chavez Street in downtown Austin -- has had several owners throughout the years.

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Travis County is considering whether to put the building up for sale or a long-term lease, and there are some who don't want its cultural history gone.

Palm School served as an elementary school for 84 years. Many of its students were Mexican-Americans.

Palm School
Palm School students watching the last streetcar that ran by the school, February 7, 1940. Photo courtesy of the Austin History Center.
Austin History Center

The site is now home to Travis County Health and Human Services. 

The department's staff will move into a new building on Airport Boulevard by 2021, and the county has no use for the property, according to staff members.

Since April 2018, the county has been working to determine what to do with the building and how it can best preserve its history.

The county conducted a community survey last summer and presented its findings at the meeting Wednesday night.

Nearly 70 percent of its respondents suggested turning the space into an art gallery. Other options include turning it into an event or museum space.

"There may be a lot of ideas about, you know, 'Should we sell it? Should we do this? Should we do that?' We haven't taken a vote on that. Those votes have not been taken. A lot of discussions have been held, but that's it," Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez said.

Palm School, late 1920s
Palm School, late 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Austin History Center.
Austin History Center

But community members at the meeting said they felt like the Travis County Commissioners Court has already made up its mind about selling the building.

"We're missing an opportunity and we're not conveying the beauty and the contribution that palm school made to our families, our Latino families, in Austin," community member Rosa Rios Valdez said.

County staff members will take all the feedback they received at the meeting back to the Commissioners Court, which will take up the issue again in about a month.


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