AISD narrows in on Dobie-Webb consolidation in latest proposal

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — AISD is sending a message to parents after releasing scenarios for possible school closures: It’s not a done deal. 

The plans focus on 12 schools, half of which are in east Austin. 

MORE: AISD announces possible scenarios for closures/consolidations

The other six schools are spread out across Austin. They include Pease, Joslin, Ridgetop, Dawson and Palm elementary schools and Webb Middle School. 

AISD superintendent Paul Cruz said the proposed changes have the best interest of students in mind. 

“It wasn’t about cuts, it was about reinvestments. So when the board approved the budget, it was about reinvestment, early literacy and supporting campuses most in need,” Cruz said. 

While nothing is set in stone, the school district is confident these potential changes will have a lasting impact on student success rates. Especially in north Austin, where the district is considering consolidating Webb Middle School with Dobie College Prep Academy. 

But combining schools could cause issues for families.

Kathy Weafer, a retired teacher of 33 years, has seen the impact of consolidation. Her own daughter went through it back in the 1990s. 

“My daughter was at the bus stop at 6:30 a.m. and then they had the whole day and she would get back right around 4:00 p.m. That’s a long day for little kids,” Weafer said. 

Now, Webb Middle School across the street could face the same fate.

AISD is considering taking students from Webb and placing them in Dobie, about three miles up I-35. 

Ana Ramirez, a mom to a sixth grader at Webb, is nervous this will add stress to pick up and drop off. 

“It’s going to be pretty hard on me taking them to school,” Ramirez said. 

But she’s hopeful it will provide new choices her daughter doesn’t have at Webb. 

“I want them to achieve. I want them to be more than what I am,” Ramirez said. “I really want the school to encourage the teachers to teach better, to organize the school a bit better than what they normally have. To try to get the students to do more activities, more sports.” 

By combining the two campuses, the school district said students will have brand new opportunities in extracurricular academic programs, athletic teams and elective choices like band, choir and the arts. 

In this scenario, Webb would be repurposed, and Dobie would be modernized. And a new “International Welcome Center” would be set up on campus, to give kids of all backgrounds the right tools to succeed. 

“It’s all about the kids. It’s not about anything else. That’s why we teach. To help our children become better citizens,” Weafer said. 

The school district said it would save $1 million in annual operations and maintenace costs with consolidation of Webb and Dobie. 

The document highlighting possible scenarios for school changes includes more than just school closures. AISD leaders also want to invest in and develop workforce housing. 

They say they want teachers to be able to afford to live in the communities where they work. They’re considering working with educators to develop a housing program. 

Another scenario includes expanding school hours from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. across the entire district. That would benefit families in need of before and after school care. 

AISD is also considering increasing and expanding two-way dual language and immersion programs. It’s currently being offered in 22 elementary schools in three languages: Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin. They want to expand that program in at least eight elementary schools. 

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