Austin ISD gives 3-campus tour of past and future bond projects


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District gave KXAN a tour of three campuses as it gears up to put their biggest bond in history on the November ballot.

As AISD prepares for a $1.05 billion bond election, school officials wanted to show off how 2013 bond dollars have revamped aging campuses like Winn Elementary School in east Austin. New floor tile, lighting, office space and a new stand-alone library wing were completed last school year.

“You get motivated when you are in a wonderful, beautiful space,” said Winn principal Anayansi Blessum. “It’s just human nature.”

Winn is extremely under-enrolled and could hold another 250 students. Blessum said the upgrades help attract new families along with their new Montessori program, although enrollment is only up by about 25 students this year.

Next up on the tour was LBJ Early College High School where a new career launch health science program is up and running. Walls were torn out of several classrooms over the summer to make way for a hospital-like lab setting where students are getting more hands-on learning.

Phase one and two were covered by 2013 contingency funds, but phase three—which would expand the lab space to the second floor—is dependent upon the 2017 bond passing. If that happens, the Liberal Arts and Science Academy would have to relocate.

“I would like to say thank you for making this happen,” said senior Aliana Scott. “Because without [voters] we wouldn’t have all of the equipment from the hospitals.”

The third and final stop on the tour was Rosedale School, a unique campus that serves students with severe mental, physical and behavioral disabilities. The campus was built as an elementary school in 1939, and its age is showing.

“It’ scored in the 30’s on the facilities test which is deplorable,” said Rosedale parent Debbie Tolany. “The conditions are not suitable for any student, but the conditions are especially not ok for our most vulnerable students in the Austin district.”

Rosedale Principal Elizabeth Dickey showed multiple examples of how bathrooms, classrooms, hallways and the gym are not suitable for children in wheelchairs, and who require other types of medical equipment.

Under the current bond proposal, AISD would sell the current Rosedale campus and land and build a new school from the ground up at the Lucy Read Pre-K campus site. The current building would be demolished. The entire Rosedale project makes up $40 million of the $1.05 billion bond.

‘They’re not growing, but they want to build all these schools,” said Roger Falk, an analyst with the Travis County Taxpayers Union who is for sure voting “no.”

His main beef: even though AISD is not raising the tax rate, he knows appraised property values in Austin typically rise.

“This bond costs you a tax increase no matter what you are being told,” said Falk.

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