Austin ISD meets with parents this week to talk about proposed school closures


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Parents of Pease Elementary School students will meet with Austin ISD leaders Monday in the first of 19 meetings focused on the district’s proposed closure and consolidation plan released earlier this month.

The school district says the scenarios are not final and the meetings over the next two and a half weeks will collect feedback to inform how it moves forward.

“We want to know, is that the right thing for that community?” said AISD’s senior communications specialist Cristina Nguyen. “If the campus is closed, is there something else that could benefit the community like affordable housing or a community center?”

One proposal on the district’s list of scenarios would close Pease and send students instead to Zavala Elementary School in east Austin. That school would then receive a “facility improvement to accept the Pease student enrollment,” according to the plan.

Parents at Pease are ready to fight for their school. Families hand-painted banners advocating to keep the campus open and a local Boy Scout troop distributed signs encouraging passersby to help “Save Pease.”

A hand-painted banner hangs on the fence outside of Pease Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Sarah Thoorens is one of those parents. Her daughter Avienne is a 2nd-grader at Pease, but she’s not sure she’ll be sending her preschool-aged son, Loden, there even if it does stay open.

“I have no trust in AISD after this, not in this administration in particular,” Thoorens said. “We’ve already started looking at charter schools around our neighborhood.”

Thoorens has a long history in AISD; she was the third generation in her family to go to Austin schools, making her kids the fourth.

She chose Pease for her daughter because the downtown location is convenient and she wanted the small campus atmosphere. Each grade level there has just two classes.

As an all-transfer school, Pease parents all have to choose to send their kids to the downtown location. It’s a community, families say, bound not by zip code but by a connection to downtown Austin.

“The thing I love most about Pease is that working parents have an opportunity to be engaged in their school,” said Rose Guajardo, who’s sending her second child to the school.

Monday’s meeting starts at 7:30 a.m. and is specific to Pease’s situation. Parents of other schools impacted by the draft scenario can find their school’s meeting date and time here.

The meetings will be small group discussions, Nguyen said, instead of a town hall-style forum. The district hopes the format encourages parents and administrators to drill down into what works and what doesn’t about the proposals.

“It’s not just about what’s happening to the facilities,” she said. “It’s really about what we can do to support our whole family, our whole staff, and our students.”

Parents who can’t attend the meetings can offer their feedback using an online form here.

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