AISD discusses criteria for closing schools
Monday, Austin ISD board members got a clearer picture of the district's financial state and how it relates to potential school closures.
According to a presentation by Nicole Conley Johnson, AISD's chief of business and operations, the district projects a $20 million deficit in the current year that will increase to $65 million next fiscal year.
The projected shortfalls stem from decreasing enrollment, increasing recapture payments to the state and a decreasing fund balance.
In December, AISD rolled out a preliminary plan to tackle the shortfall including: increasing class sizes, adjusting the employee health plan and closing schools.
Monday, board members discussed establishing criteria for determining which schools would close.
"There's some challenging decisions ahead of us," says Chief of School Leadership Michelle Cavazos.
Cavazos suggested the district consider three tiers for school consolidations: enrollment and population, building conditions and maintenance costs, and a detailed review of other facts including community engagement.
Ken Zarifis with Education Austin was on the district's budget stabilization task force and is urging board members to hold off on a decision to close schools.
"I don't think any of the schools should be closed until we have been able to look at boundaries, look at strengthening feeder patterns, and wait until the legislature tells us what's happening with school finance," says Zarifis.
Cavazos says the district will provide many opportunities for public input before voting on closures.
AISD's timeline predicts the board will vote on criteria for school closures in February, they'll identify which schools will close by June and the closures won't go into effect until the 2020/2021 school year.