AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin ISD is moving forward with a plan to spend $25 million modernizing an East Austin elementary school while putting the fate of two other elementary schools in the same neighborhood in jeopardy.
The board voted Monday to pour the money into Sanchez Elementary, selecting the school just east of downtown over Metz, and Zavala Elementary schools, both of which were also being considered.
The district argues student enrollment has dropped at the three schools for years, and that they’re no longer financially solvent.
“Enrolment is on a steady decline, and that’s because Austin is a growing city and we’re experiencing gentrification in that area,” said Jocelyn Connell, an AISD community engagement supervisor.
Dozens of people spoke out against the decision before the board vote, arguing the board pitted local schools against one another and unfairly punished minority students already struggling to close an achievement gap with white, affluent students.
As parents waited to pick up their kids outside Zavala, they couldn’t help but discuss the fate of their school.
“In the long run, you have to think 20 years, 30 years ahead,” said Ramon Maldonado. “Where are these people going to send their kids?”
Maldonado pointed out that new development is underway on lots surrounding the school, and he predicts the district will eventually need more schools in the area.
Before the board meeting started a group called the East Austin Schools Manifesto Coalition demonstrated in front of the school board. Many held signs that said, “our east Austin schools aren’t for sale.”
Board member Edmund T. Gordon, who represents the schools in question, voiced strong opposition to the plan.
“Closing schools can devastate communities and it’s a big problem,” he said.
Construction at Sanchez isn’t expected to begin until next year. The board won’t make a decision on the fates of Metz and Zavala Elementary schools until 2020.