|Nearing Phase I of our long-range plan|
Dear SAISD Staff,
I’m happy to report that we’re seeing steady progress in implementation of our 2010 bond program. We’re expecting a few more school construction projects to wrap up this summer, and more in the fall, bringing us closer to implementing Phase I of our long-range facilities plan. The plan involves closing five schools, but only after extensive renovations are completed at some of the schools that will serve as new home campuses for students who attended the closing schools.
Now, I wasn’t around during what I understand to be a lengthy and thorough process for charting out the long-term use of our facilities, but I’ve had a chance to study up and better understand the process that was used, and I think it’s important and timely to share this with you, especially because some of you may not have worked for us when these important decisions were made.
SAISD had been operating with more schools than it needed to accommodate its student population, and it was evident that something had to change if the District was going to improve the quality of education for all students. So, in late 2007, the District formed a citizens’ committee from residents across the District. The group’s charge was to study issues related to declining enrollment, aging facilities, insufficient funding and the loss of programs that the many small or under-enrolled schools could not offer.
Over more than two years, committee members worked to develop a long-range plan for the use of our facilities, and the plan included campus consolidations. In choosing schools for consolidation, the committee looked at many factors, among them locations within the attendance boundaries, costs to rebuild or renovate a school to the Districts’ identified standards, availability of space and land for expansion.
The inefficiencies of staffing so many facilities, coupled with insufficient funding, greatly limit our District’s ability to offer all of our students the full and comprehensive curriculum, programs and services that they deserve.
In November of 2010, SAISD voters approved a $515 million bond proposal to fund, in part, the modernization and expansion of nine of the schools that will serve as “receiving schools” for students who attend Brewer, Nelson, Steele and W.W. White elementary schools and Austin Academy – the five schools planned for eventual consolidation. Renovations at the receiving schools will cost a total of $136 million in bond funding.
It’s important to know that no schools will close next year. The closures and associated new boundaries won’t go into effect until the 2015-16 school year, after bond renovations are completed on some of the receiving campuses. Additionally, faculty and staff will follow the students, as needed, to the receiving schools. The remaining staff will be reassigned to other SAISD positions.
These new upgraded receiving campuses will offer our students facilities and programs we cannot provide at their current campus today (such as art classes and science labs in elementary schools). That’s really what this restructuring is all about: It’s not simply a matter of consolidating schools; it’s a means to raise the standards of our offerings across the District and provide a learning environment that meets today’s instructional needs.
In the meantime, we also are looking into what we would do with these schools once they close. In the case of Austin Academy, its central location provides for some unique opportunities, including the possibility of a specialized school. In discussions with the Board of Trustees last week, we made the decision to delay the closure of Austin for an additional year, in order to fully assess different options for the future use of the facility.
For example, San Antonio College has proposed a partnership in repurposing the school as an 8th-grade prep academy for students interested in pursuing admissions to one of our early college high schools. This and other opportunities will be thoroughly reviewed for the best fit for the District and our students.
While the other four schools are expected to close for the 2015-16 school year, Austin would not close until the end of the 2015-16 school year.
New attendance boundaries will go into effect for the 2015-16 school year, though parents will have the option of either keeping their child at Austin Academy that year or having their child attend the receiving school within the new boundaries.
The communities affected by all the consolidations and boundary changes will be kept abreast of the transition process at key intervals.
As we move into Phase I of our long-range facilities plan, I think we all can come together around the end result and the benefits in store for all students in SAISD.