AISD: Another Overcrowding Conundrum

Brentwood Elementary parents upset over AISD proposal to bus 200 new students in from farther north

Austin has an overcrowding problem that, on the face of it, seems to have an easy solution. Wooldridge Elementary in North Austin has 946 students, significantly more than its capacity of 700. Brentwood Elementary, in North Central Austin, has only 413 students, well less than its 640-student capacity. So last week, the Austin Independent School District proposed moving 200 students to Brentwood and another 57 to T.A. Brown Elementary, also in North Central Austin. These aren't the closest schools, but Paul Turner, director of facilities for AISD, says they're the best options available. "We would like to move students into schools that are even closer to Wooldridge," says Turner. "But we are short on capacity in all the bordering schools. In fact, Wooldridge is expected to grow by another 200 next year."

The district is quickly discovering, however, that it's not so easy to just move students around on a map. Many Brentwood parents are taking the surprise announcement as a call to arms. They feel the influx of students could sabotage the school's many successful programs – it's been rated "recognized" by the Texas Education Agency – and they've instituted a media blitz to force AISD to revise its plans. Kenny Jones has a daughter at Brentwood, and this week he sent out a three-page letter to media outlets detailing why AISD's plan is ill-conceived. "Brentwood is under capacity, but the staff have used that to their advantage," says Jones. "The school has raised money to train the staff in special teaching methods. And it's really worked. So, what happens when new teachers come in that haven't received that training? I don't want to see those programs squashed by the new population."

AISD: Another Overcrowding Conundrum

AISD's Turner emphasizes that the plan is still just a proposal and says AISD will consider other proposals. "The Brentwood parents have very legitimate concerns," he says. "And we want to have the support of the Brentwood community. We need to look at the projections and figure out where we might have room. But, it really would be best to keep the students in the same geographic area." Turner added that eventually AISD will build another North Austin elementary school, but that doesn't solve the current capacity problem.

Some Brentwood parents do understand that Wooldridge is in a tight spot and that their school is likely to absorb some of those students. Jones hopes that the district could find a way to lessen the impact, perhaps by sending Brentwood fewer than 200 kids. If not, he'd like to see the district give the school additional money to smooth the transition. "If the district is going to surprise us with a change this big at this point in the year," Jones says, "I hope they can at least provide us with the resources to save Brentwood's winning culture."

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