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Austin district stalls recommendations on school closures, rebuilds


Highlights

Administrators and facility advisory committee members were unable to finalize the master plan document.

Dozens of parents, and a few board trustees, have pushed back against some of the more contentious proposals.

The final recommendations for the Austin school district’s facilities plan weren’t yet ready Friday, forcing the district to postpone a planned public hearing on the issue until after spring break.

Administrators and facility advisory committee members were unable to finish the recommendations Friday, which was necessary to post the agenda within the legal requirements for the March 20 public hearing, said board President Kendall Pace. They need more time to incorporate the input they received this week from the school board and from the community in the last few facility advisory committee meetings, she said.

In recent weeks, dozens of parents, and a few school board members, have pushed back against some of the more contentious proposals, which so far have included closing a handful of elementaries and two prekindergarten centers, and moving the nationally recognized Liberal Arts and Science Academy, or LASA, out of LBJ High School and to an undetermined location. Some changes are already reflected on the district’s online preliminary recommendations, including the removal of Ridgetop Elementary as a potential closure.

“This is such an important document that I don’t mind delaying the discussion because we want a thoughtful, thorough, strong recommended facilities master plan that the committee and administration can stand behind,” Pace said.

The update on the 20-year facilities master plan now is likely to go to the board in March 27. The document will detail hundreds of facility changes, including substantial renovations to aging campuses, closing eight schools and consolidating them with others, and building six new schools. The vote will be moved to April.

The master plan is intended to modernize the district and its aging campuses, 1 in 3 of which is considered to be in poor condition. The average age of the district’s facilities is 40 years, with some schools more than a century old. The district has deferred maintenance of over $1.5 billion.

The school board will decide whether to approve the plan, which has been months in the making. That decision also will include the priority projects, which are likely to go into a multimillion-dollar bond package to be presented to voters in November.



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