AUSTIN (KXAN) - Parents at Barton Hills Elementary are doing all they can to get their children's school off the closure list before the Austin School Board makes a decision.
Monday, a task force rolled out its cost-saving options , and told the board the district could save $11.3 million if it closed nine schools:
- Barton Hills
- Oak Springs
- Zilker elementary schools
- Pearce Middle School
"Right now we have schools that have fewer students than the capacity," said Richard Frazier, task force co-chair and orchestra director at Anderson High School.
The students and teachers would be moved to other schools that have room, as well. The empty school buildings would be leased out to other organizations, preferably for educational use.
Parents at Barton Hills Elementary received a letter breaking the news last week. They have launched a Facebook page and collected more than 1,300 signatures in an online petition, as of Jan. 11. Parents have also spread the message by shoe polishing "save our school" across their cars, and have been holding signs in the student pick-up and drop-off lines.
Before Hilary Whitfield picked up her second-grade son from the campus Tuesday, she walked the surrounding neighborhood and passed out flyers to encourage others to help save the school.
"My son is so happy here and I have felt such a sense of relief when we finally got settled," said Hilary Whitfield while choking back tears. "This news is just devastating."
Whitfield said her son bounced around to several Austin schools before they found exactly what they were looking for at Barton Hills Elementary. Her daughter is supposed to start kindergarten next school year.
"It's a strong, successful, vibrant school. To close it would be tragic," said Whitfield.
The ultimate decision will be up to the school board. The task force is set to make its final cost-saving recommendations in early March. If the board decides to keep schools open, the cuts have to come from somewhere and teachers could suffer.
"The most logical and the biggest source we'd have to look at if the buildings aren't reduced would be teacher salaries because that's 80 percent of our budget in the district," said Frazier.
Barton Hills parents will continue protesting the closure of their school.
"If you're an elected official in Austin- - on the school board, on the city council, at the State Capitol, in Washington -- you will be hearing from our families because all of us understand that communities are schools, but schools belong in the heart of our communities," said Jason Sabo, father of a Barton Hills fifth grader. "We need to ensure every kid in Austin has access to some place like Barton Hills."
The school is hosting a public meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
The Austin school district is also holding two public meetings to hear feedback:
Wednesday, Jan. 12 - Delco Center, 4601 Pecan Brook Drive, Austin, TX
Thursday, Jan. 13 - Burger Activity Center, 3200 Jones Road, Austin, TX
Click here to read draft of cost-saving options from the task force.
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