Austin ISD board votes to close 4 elementary schools

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Split image showing Metz, Pease, Sims, and Brooke elementary schools

Austin ISD voted Nov. 18 to close four schools – Metz, Pease, Sims and Brooke elementary schools.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Four Austin ISD elementary schools will close at the end of the school year after district leaders voted Monday to shutter the schools and send the students to other campuses.

Metz, Pease, Sims, and Brooke elementary schools will all close, and students at Brooke will be split up between two schools.

It’s a move the district’s own chief equity officer defined as ’21st century racism‘ Monday since three of the four schools are in east Austin.

The school board passed the closures plan in a 6-3 vote. Trustees Arati Singh, Ann Teich and LaTisha Anderson voted against the closures.

The move is expected to save millions.

Austin ISD Board meeting on Nov. 18. (KXAN/Andrew Choat)

The district cited poor facilities and declining enrollment as reasons behind the closures.

Under the plan, students from Sims will now go to Norman, students from Metz will now go to Sanchez Elementary, students from Pease will go to Zavala Elementary and operate as a separate school within the building, and students from Brooke will go to either Govalle or Linder elementary schools, depending on which side of Lady Bird Lake they live on.

MORE: AISD announces schools slated for 2020-21 closures

The district said the closures and consolidations will allow it to save $3.78 million.

There will be a two-year moratorium on requests for proposals for the commercial sale of each newly vacated property.

The plan calls for Superintendent Cruz to prioritize community use or affordable housing for teachers or staff in the vacated buildings.

Eighty-nine people signed up to speak during the public comment session at the Monday board meeting. All of them spoke out against the plan.

MORE: AISD equity officer says school closures are ’21st Century racism’

In September, AISD staff released a plan that called for 12 schools to close. Since then the district held more than 40 meetings at various school campuses to solicit community feedback, and to explain why it was proposing the closures.

Austin ISD then decided to focus on these first four closures and not close a dozen schools at once. But these closures could be the start of a larger effort to close more schools within the district.

AISD staff said the eight remaining schools on the original list shared in September are still under consideration for closure.

The community conversations around closures are expected to resume in January.

Statements from Austin ISD

I think the role of the President is to ensure that the voice and will of the board is what the district is listening to and I think that tonight, I hope, what you saw was an intentional, thoughtful deliberation based on all the information we have at the time. And you saw the will of the board came through in the vote with plenty of time to give trustees their voice because it takes all of us together as a community and that means we are going to have different views. But we are all going to come together as a community. I think that is what's really important about Austin's school district is that we are one community. And you can see that tonight. Lots of passion in the community as well."

Geronimo Rodriguez, AISD Board President

Tonight we've just seen a lot of passion, commitment and love for our schools and that's exactly what we want to see and what I want to see and what we have seen throughout our engagement process and that's important. We also know we have difficult decisions and lots goes on in a large organization. It has always been about access and opportunity for our students. Making sure we are serving our students in the best ways. Making sure our focus is on academic excellence. That we are focused on serving our special needs students. That we are thinking about our teachers and strategic staffing. And those elements are part of the school changes process. I think it's important that today and tomorrow that we have exceptional teachers, students who want to do well in school every single day, and that's important to Austin and the Austin community."

Dr. Paul Cruz, AISD Superintendent

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