AISD Boys' School Has a Target

Covington Middle School seems the likely candidate

Cheryl Bradley
Cheryl Bradley
Photo by John Anderson

The Austin Independent School District is edging closer to opening a second single-sex school – this time for boys – and Covington Middle School has become the top contender to house it.

The academy, which would enroll boys in grades 6-12, is part of the current draft annual facilities recommendations for the 2013-14 school year. The district has already secured a one-off grant of $4.6 million from the Moody Foundation for the project and has shortlisted five underenrolled middle schools – Covington, Garcia, Lamar, Martin, and Pearce – as potential homes. Even though it has consistently ranked well in state accountability rankings, Covington appears to be the frontrunner.

This would be the male equivalent to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, which faces criticism that it skims off the best female students from other AISD schools. While the administration and Principal Jeanne Goka rankle at claims that it is a magnet school, members of the board of trustees increasingly admit that it is so.

Families in the Covington area are rebelling against the plan. Students have taken to Facebook to express their frustration about potentially losing their neighborhood school, while older residents are angry that a campus named after Texas' first female band director, Verna Covington, would become a boys' school. Questions have also been raised in the community about whether it is really an underutilized campus. According to district figures, Covington's enrollment is only at 62% of functional capacity, and even if every kid in the neighborhood attended, it would still only be at 80% capacity. However, the population in Southwest Austin is growing fast: In fact, AISD is considering ending transfers to two of Covington's neighboring middle school campuses – Bedichek and Gorzyck – because of overcrowding.

If Covington falls through, then Garcia and Pearce seem unlikely replacements, as the district is eyeing them for different single-sex schools. Comments from AISD Trustee Cheryl Bradley have raised the question of whether those schools are about gender or race. Bradley has said it is essential that the campuses be nothing like Ann Richards, where students have to apply for admission, and should be single-sex havens for minority students. However, after huge public outcry, the district has cooled on that idea and is considering other options for the 2013-14 school year.

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