AISD’s Big Move

A $1 billion bond? No problem.

Blazier Elementary is one of the schools that will get much-needed funding from the 2017 school bond package. (Photo by John Anderson)

Go big or go bust: That was the Austin Independent School District's mantra when it came to investing in new schools and new buildings this year. After the mixed results of the 2013 bond package (two pass, two fail), the district came back this year with a $1 billion proposal, the biggest investment plan ever presented to local voters. It was a huge gamble, but with an estimated $5 billion in construction and repairs needed over the next 25 years, it served as a down payment on building a modern district. If it failed, more campuses faced closure due to simple disrepair.

The administration made a determined sales pitch, and it paid off. In spite of determined opposition from the anti-everything-government Travis County Taxpayers Union and their unlikely allies in the newly minted Save East Austin Schools PAC, in November voters backed the spending plan two-to-one. That includes massive districtwide investments, and arguably the most controversial plan the board has approved in years: moving the Liberal Arts and Science Academy out of LBJ High School and into the Johnston Mem­or­ial Campus, and moving current Johnston residents Eastside Memorial to the old Anderson campus, site of Austin's first African-American school. Opponents see re-segregation, while supporters predict a new start for East Austin.

But that was just part of the district's real estate reorganization. In June, the board approved the sale of 43 acres of unused land to developer RSI Com­mun­i­ties, following that up in December with five more properties on the block. That list included the Millett Opera House (aka the Austin Club), sold to a new preservation nonprofit; the Baker Center, which becomes the new corporate campus for the Alamo Draft­house; and, in the biggest change of all, the Carruth Admin­i­stra­tion Center, as the administration packs up from its Downtown offices and decamps to a new location on South I-35. Add on to this the rumors about rapid closures of some underenrolled campuses – rumors the district effectively apologized for propagating – and it's all just head-scratching times for the district's postal deliveries. Double-check those addresses before you drop your mail in the delivery box.

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