Future of east Austin elementary school in question after low enrollment

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Parents at an east Austin elementary school will meet to discuss the future of the school Wednesday evening, less than a week after a report that the Austin Independent School District planned to close Brooke Elementary and other campuses as early as next August.

The report from the Austin American-Statesman cites AISD documents as saying the district plans to close up to three schools by the end of next summer and consolidating them with other campuses due to low enrollment.

KXAN reported over the summer AISD was looking at six schools for potential consolidation as part of its $1 billion bond proposal that voters passed last month.

Ashley Benavides, a Brooke Elementary parent, told KXAN the school means a lot to the her east Austin neighborhood. "They love this school," she said. "It's a lot of people who grew up around this area, and this is the school they attended."

On Tuesday, AISD administrators told KXAN the district has not made any final decisions regarding closures. Instead, AISD's chief officer for teaching and learning Edmund Oropez said the school district is still looking for feedback, including in Wednesday's meeting with parents.

"The administration has no plans to recommend closure of Brooke for '17-'18 or even looking to the future," Oropez said. "We just want to examine what's happening at Brooke with the enrollment numbers and look at the impact that that has."

AISD sent KXAN enrollment numbers for schools across the district. Brooke Elementary has lost 160 students since the 2011-2012 school year, down to 244 total students this year. Ortega Elementary, about 2.5 miles from Brooke and one of the schools AISD is considering merging with Brooke, has lost just three students over the same time period. Govalle Elementary, another option for consolidation, dropped 72 students since 2011.

Overall, the district numbers show a 4,743 student drop in enrollment at all levels in the last six years. There are 81,381 total students this school year.

"Our 25-year facility master plan was really to look at campuses that are under-enrolled," including Brooke and other campuses, Oropez said. Wednesday's parent meeting is just the latest in a series of talks with communities that might be affected by consolidation.

Benavides, the Brooke parent, hopes those discussions produce a solution besides closing her neighborhood school. "We wouldn't want it to happen," she said, "because it would be a whole new transition, and then with my daughter just having to restart over to a new school and get comfortable."

"So hopefully they can get things settled where they can keep this school open."

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