Brace for traffic: SXSW and spring break don’t line up in 2019

Austin

Austinites have a year to prepare for what could be weeks of traffic troubles and crowds next March. 

According to the Austin Independent School District, Spring Break in 2019 will not line up with the South by Southwest Festival as it has in the past. AISD and Austin Community College will have spring break the same week as the University of Texas at Austin, which is scheduled for March 18-22. SXSW will happen the week before, March 8-17.

“Oh no, that’s a disaster because South-by is my second Christmas,” said Jeni Garcia. She volunteers at the festival, and is also an Austin ISD parent and teacher. 

SXSW officials tell KXAN their 2019 dates and contracts were originally in sync with where Spring Break historically falls, but  UT Austin and AISD deviated from precedent set by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and set their 2019 Spring Break one week later. 

A UT Austin Spokesperson told KXAN the University did not change their normal process, and had their 2019 calendar set early in the fall for events like SXSW. 

SXSW says they contacted officials at the University in November 2017 and told them Spring Break 2019 was in conflict with SXSW’s contracted dates.

The festival asked UT, AISD, Texas State and others to revise the calendar, but no changes were made.

In addition to Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville and Leander are just a few of the school districts moving spring break a week later. The spring break holiday in Georgetown, Manor and Burnet will match SXSW in 2019.

UT Austin, in a statement Tuesday evening, said, “We regret that SXSW chose to schedule their 2019 conference at a different time than UT Austin’s Spring Break.”

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said the dates for spring break 2019 were set and published online in the fall of 2017, about 18 months in advance of the vacation. 

“There were no changes to the calendar after it was published,” Bird said. “It was set following a standard formula the university has followed for many years based on the common calendar of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the educational needs of our students.”

In the past, the exodus of students for vacations outside Austin has helped offset some of the thousands of people who descend on the city during the festival. 

“Traffic is going to be horrendous,” said Garcia. “How are they going to find volunteers?”

Tami Richter, director of Event Staffing for SXSW, says around one-third of their volunteers are students, teachers, or administrators. 

“We’ve already had many reach out with their concerns,” said Richter.

She also believes students will miss out on opportunities to make extra cash working at downtown business, and believes businesses will have a much harder time filling positions for the festival.

AISD approved its 2018-19 school calendar back in January of this year. However, SXSW didn’t announce its 2019 schedule until last week. 

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