Forgione Now Suggests Closing Becker and Oak Springs Outright

"Repurposing" has turned into "closure."

Forgione Now Suggests Closing Becker and Oak Springs Outright Austin Independent School District Superintendent Pat Forgione on Monday tweaked his much-debated proposal to "repurpose" Becker and Oak Springs elementaries. Instead of turning them into prekindergarten centers, Forgione suggested closing them outright, with Becker shuttering this spring, and Oak Springs the following year. The plan, he said, would cut about $400,000 out of AISD's budget.

That option was only one of several trustees must choose between, including proposals from the Becker community for ways to fill the half-empty school. Although he did not officially recommend any of the Becker suggestions, Forgione got visibly excited about the community's idea to seek out grants to make Becker an in-district charter school with some sort of specialized curriculum (the arts or dual-language instruction has been kicked about). However, he said that to be successful, the charter would have to find ways to bring new students into AISD from private schools or other districts, and not simply suck students from other nearby elementaries, many of which only stay full themselves through transfers. "If we just redistribute the kids at Zilker and Barton Hills, I'll have to recommend closing one of them," he said.

While some trustees expressed support for the closure, it's unlikely next Monday's vote will be unanimous. Cheryl Bradley, who represents Northeast Austin, expressed passionate opposition. She pointed out that under the last few years of a school-improvement "blueprint" program, both Oak Springs and Blackshear (where many Oak Springs students would attend if their school were closed) had shown marked advancement. "I do believe that if you consolidate Oak Springs and Blackshear, you'll defeat what you started out with the blueprint model," she said.

Bradley was not alone in her concerns. Trustee Mark Williams said the cost savings were tempting, but stressed the need to weigh the dollars in their wider context. "It's $400,000, but how much goodwill are we losing with our community?" he asked.

The Board of Trustees will make the final decision Monday, March 27 at the board meeting at 7pm at 1111 W. Sixth.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Independent School District, repurposing, Becker, Oak Springs, Cheryl Bradley, Austin ISD, Mark Williams, Pat Forgione

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