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Feedback received at 14 public rightsizing meetings

Brackenridge MeetingIt was easy for Chauncey Reid to see San Antonio ISD's need for rightsizing after seeing the presentation at Young Men's Leadership Academy on Aug. 30.

“Everybody comes in with clenched hands, but you get the picture of why this is happening,” the father of two said.


At 14 community engagement meetings at 14 different campuses, district leaders explained the rationale behind SAISD's decision to move forward with the rightsizing study. They also gathered input from the people who attended the meetings, jotting down ideas, questions and concerns on multicolored post-it notes. Behind the scenes, staff members transcribed these notes and put them in one, centralized location for review.


SAISD held its last meeting on the rightsizing framework on Sept. 12 at Longfellow Middle School. District officials will present an initial recommendation package of schools to the Board of Trustees on Sept. 18.


The board will make the final decision on whether to restructure schools on Nov. 13. If the board approves, SAISD will implement the changes in the 2024-2025 school year.


Some of the staggering statistics presented at the 14 community meetings included that:

• Enrollment has dropped by 18,326 students since 1998.
• Current enrollment is 45,285, or 3,381 fewer students than the worst-case scenario prediction from a demographer in 2010.
• In SAISD ZIP codes, births declined 36% between 2007-2021.


While Reid recognized that SAISD’s enrollment has dropped significantly, he is concerned that closing or consolidating schools may lead to overcrowding, which is already an issue on some campuses. He wondered if rightsizing would exacerbate the problem.


Highlands High School alumna Pat Jasso brought her grandson, John David, to a community meeting. John David attends Young Men’s Leadership Academy, and Jasso sat on the district’s bond oversight committee. She applauded SAISD for its transparent process and willingness to collect community feedback before making a decision.


“I’m all for rightsizing. I’ve seen the damage that charter schools have done and the facilities that don’t have enough enrollment,” she said. “It’s long overdue.”


Jasso said she would like to see SAISD use any vacant buildings for affordable housing for teachers and others who need it. She hoped that the rightsizing process would allow the district to better meet students’ needs.


Many people at the meetings recognized that SAISD is doing everything it can to meet students’ needs. Francine Agueros and her daughter Daisy, who goes to Jefferson High School, said the district is doing whatever it can to help students.


Agueros also attended SAISD schools, so it saddens her that the community is not utilizing its schools. That’s why rightsizing piqued her interest. After hearing the presentation and learning about how steep the enrollment and birth rate drops are, she understand the need for rightsizing.


“We have half the students that the district was built for, so I can understand,” she said. “If this can improve the quality of schools and the community, we have to do it.”


Armando Trujillo also understood the reasoning for rightsizing right now. His daughter attended Bonham Academy, and he was pleased with the education she received there, especially the dual language program. He also said he was pleased with the process SAISD is undertaking to gather feedback, collect data and listen to people.


“Closing schools is difficult, but I like that there’s a concerted effort to get community members’ opinions,” Trujillo said.


Others understood the rationale behind rightsizing but worried about the transition period, particularly for students. Southeast Side Neighborhood Association President Dorothy Wilkins said she has concerns about transportation for students and the loss of traditions, such as school mascots and colors. Furthermore, students might struggle emotionally with the change and will likely need someone to talk to about the transition.


“That’s a lot to put kids through,” she said.


Other community members on the East Side expressed frustration that families aren’t aware of all the district's offerings. Several parents at the community meeting at Young Men's Leadership Academy said the school needs to market itself more, like charter schools do. Schandra Carr took her son out of an IDEA school and enrolled him at YMLA. When he first came to SAISD, he was two grade levels behind, but his teachers got him caught up. Now, he’s performing above grade level and made a good score on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). She said more students could have those opportunities if they attended SAISD.


Parents Mariana and Adam Valdez echoed Carr. Their two sons both went to YMLA. Their eldest son flourished at the academy and joined the marching band before he graduated.


“He’s a completely different kid,” Mariana Valdez said. 


They worry their younger son will miss out on those same opportunities if the school closes.


Those opportunities brought Lorraine Cantù to SAISD. She doesn’t live in the district, but after trying her neighborhood school and a charter school, she began enrolling her three children in SAISD schools.


Currently, one of her sons attends Irving Dual Language Academy. The dual language program attracted her family to the school because she wants her children to learn academic Spanish, not just slang. The charter school her daughter attended abruptly dropped its dual language program, causing her to change schools.


Cantù said she doesn’t know why people don’t see the opportunities SAISD provides. She also suggested that the district market its offerings more.


“This is the best opportunity I can give my kids,” she said.


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