Austin ISD Begins School Changes 2019 Listening Tour
Community engagement sessions are scheduled through Oct. 10
Austin ISD leaders began their School Changes 2019 listening tour this week, visiting campuses that would be impacted by the plan's proposed closures and consolidations. As the Chronicle went to press on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the district had completed four meetings; more are scheduled through Oct. 10, and are mostly localized to each affected campus community, with a few districtwide and regional gatherings mixed in. A full schedule of the meetings can be viewed online at www.austinisd.org/schoolchanges/meetings.
The district went into its first few meetings prepared to explain the rationale for each of the 39 School Changes scenarios, but quickly found that what parents wanted was a space to air their grievances and ask hard questions about how decisions on closures were reached. Celso Baez III, assistant director of community engagement and external communications at AISD, told us the district plans to release "in the coming weeks" a new draft version of the School Changes scenarios with revised language, though not (yet) revisions to the proposals. The new document – and ostensibly the current community engagement sessions – will "verbalize more explicitly" scenarios that "accomplish equity," Baez told us. But he also acknowledged that the district needs to "humanize itself by [listening] to communities that are hurt and damaged." For most of those communities, the No. 1 one question will be, "Why is my school being closed?" Getting past the emotional phase of engagement to acquire feedback for adjusting and tweaking scenarios for a true draft two – due sometime after Oct. 10 and before the board of trustees votes on the scenarios in November – will be a challenge for the district's leaders.