New regional planning map kicks off AISD’s first step toward school closure decision

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District chose a regional planning map that will guide its conversations about school closings and consolidations. 

The map divides the district into five different east to west sections. District officials emphasize the map does not show a new feeder pattern or schools’ boundaries. 

They said the map is a new and different way for AISD to see, within each section, what kind of programs or services are needed, and after that, they’ll determine what kind of facility changes should happen to accommodate those academic needs. 

“One example might be — we see this all the time — after-school care,” said Matias Segura with AISD. “We understand that there are multiple programs to support after-school care. We know where they are. We know what hours they operate, and we know where we might need to add it within a planning region.”

He went on to explain, “So we’re always trying to balance it out to make sure that we’re moving the needle in a more efficient way, but always mindful of academic goals.”

The Board of Trustees said the map will allow them to look for creative solutions to approach and hopefully achieve equitable access. 

“If we’re going to close the most under-enrolled schools, it would all be in [the east Austin] crescent, but we have intentionally created a process to be so much more thoughtful and strategic about that because otherwise we could’ve been done,” said the board’s Vice President Cindy Anderson. 

According to AISD’s website, “In the future, the School Changes process may yield recommendations that could result in changes to attendance boundaries, feeder patterns or vertical teams, but we are not at that point in the process yet.”

The board will officially vote on the map at its Monday, May 20 meeting. They will also vote on the guiding principles they want to follow as they start to make some decisions on school closures and consolidations. 

AISD also faces budget challenges

While the conversation about the district’s future moves forward, AISD is also carefully watching the actions of state lawmakers. 

“We’re currently operating with a $65 million deficit,” said Nicole Conley, AISD’s Chief of Business and Operations. 

A group of five state senator and five house members have 10 days to negotiate a final school finance plan. 

Both the House and Senate each passed a $9 billion overhaul. Each would send $2.7 billion from the state to school districts to lower property taxes. The big difference is how the extra money would be distributed. 

The House version would send it to school districts who could choose how to spend it. The Senate version would give that money to teachers and librarians in the form of a $5,000 across-the-board raise. 

In Austin, Education Austin, a teachers’ union, is wanting a 10% raise.

Education Austin member and elementary school teacher Veronica Gulledge said, “As the cost of living keeps increasing in Austin, we can’t live in our communities anymore.”

Gulledge told KXAN she regularly spends about an eighth of her income on her students. During back-to-school preparations and around the holidays, she spends up to a quarter of her paycheck for her class.

“If you don’t have shoes, if they don’t have school supplies, we automatically pay for it. That’s just part of who we are,” she said.

“We currently can’t break even with the level of expenses that we do have, so imposing a 10% increase for teachers is just something that’s not financially feasible at this time,” Conley said.

AISD’s budget that could impact its teachers’ pay isn’t due until mid-June. 

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