AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School Board members met Monday to discuss the next step in the district’s plan to shutter four schools and what that transition will look like.
Over the next several days, a member of the district’s transition team will be at each school the district plans to close: Metz, Pease, Sims and Brooke elementary schools.
“When you’re taking a whole community and putting them into another community, there’s just as much research out there that that receiving community is affected academically as well as socially, emotionally, and so I would really prefer to see really specific lines in [the transition report] about how the receiving community is going to receive assistance, as well,” Amber Elenz, a board trustee said.
Elenz represents the district where Pease Elementary is located.
“It’s one of the biggest concerns that Pease has expressed about doing this is they don’t want to invade another school community,” Elenz said. “I think that the really heavy lifting in bringing those communities together has got to be very intentional.”
She said these closures will not only affect four schools, but nine. Taking into consideration the schools where students from the closing schools will be transferred to this upcoming school year.
District leaders are also working on organizing planning teams for each one of these campuses. Each of these teams is different because the needs are different at each school.
However, some parents feel like they’ve been left in the dark due to a lack of communication.
“The concern I heard from some parents at Brooke (Elementary School) was that in the week or the days after the Board decision, there was a lot of confusion about what was going to happen and of course a lot of grief and so I was curious as to why there wasn’t more outreach from staff to Brooke to communicate that A) we’re going to develop a really detailed plan,” asked Ann Teich, District 4 Trustee. “I know that counselors were on site, but when you’re dealing with the amount of grief and anger that was on that campus, some of the counseling activities had no effect. So I think that parents would have felt a little bit better if they had this amount of detail available to them ASAP.”
The district’s associate superintendent, Gilbert Hicks acknowledges those issues and said they’re working on it.
“We have been working with the Brooke principal to develop the plan and so it’s now ready to share with the community but we haven’t done that yet — the details of it. The overall plan but not the details,” Hicks said.
Another issue, many have wondered what will happen with the closing schools’ history. Several parents have told KXAN they attended Metz, and so did their parents and grandparents. Many are hoping the school’s history will be preserved. The transition team says that history will be preserved but did not give details on what that might look like.
A parent meeting is scheduled at Pease to gather their input. At present, two tours at Zavala have taken place with each tour consisting of 30 parents each.