AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin ISD trustees will make decisions Monday night that will impact thousands of district students, both in terms of the schools they attend and the academic programs on their campuses.
After a whirlwind three-month process, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen finally is ready to put a variety of choices to a vote on Monday night: Don't sell the Carruth and Baker centers. Sign a contract with IDEA Charters to create a feeder pattern for Eastside Memorial High School. Add four dual language programs on elementary campuses around the district. And turn Webb Middle School into a Pre-K-8 campus.
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Early Monday morning, parents began to gather to sign up for one of the 30 coveted speaking slots at the meeting. Most are opposed to the IDEA charter idea. The group is planning a march from Eastside Memorial High School to Allan Elementary this afternoon before attending the board meeting.
"AISD can take the ideas of the IDEA charter school and run it themselves," said Vincent Tovar, a parent who came early to AISD headquarters to sign up to speak. "We don't need IDEA."
Sources report the board is almost split down the middle concerning the charter school, with five in favor and four against.
In meetings with the community, Carstarphen has stressed that the choices are the intersection of facility limitations and academic needs, intended to both address low-performing schools and provide space for a "bubble" of younger children moving through the Austin ISD school system.
Two controversial proposals made by Carstarphen -- single-gender academies and dismantling Ridgetop Elementary School to free up additional space -- are now off the table. Carstarphen, however, has staunchly backed the idea of bringing in IDEA Charters in as a private partner to boost performance on the East Side. The choice also could bring with it additional federal funds and a grant from the Gates Foundation.
That choice has riled some parents, who insist bringing in the high-performing charter school is simply Austin ISD's way of avoiding taking responsibility for long-neglected schools on the East Side.
The choices and decisions made on Monday night could impact more than a dozen schools, but the short-term facilities fix will only provide one new campus: an elementary school, funded under the 2008 bond issue, that would relieve some of the overcrowding of elementary schools in North Central Austin.
Most controversial may be a choice to review and possibly alter transfer policies. Such a process could end the preference Austin ISD gives to sibling transfers, guaranteeing that all children in the same family can transfer to the same school, regardless of whether the school is overcrowded or not.
And if those choices weren't enough on the plates of Austin trustees, the agenda also includes the annual vote to freeze transfers into over-capacity schools. This year, it is 33 campuses, including a number of high schools, plus the choice to monitor an additional 22 campuses.
And trustees are expected to review and approve the design of a new district performing arts center that will provide theater and auditorium facilities for the district's fine arts program. The permanent arts center, to be located in the Mueller master-planned community, also was approved in the 2008 bond issue.
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