South San Antonio ISD Votes To Reopen Closed Schools
The board of trustees for the South San Antonio Independent School District approved a resolution to reopen three closed schools Wednesday night — before hearing a presentation on the topic from Superintendent Alexandro Flores.The resolution, approved in a 4-2 vote, said reopening Athens Elementary, Kazen Middle School and West Campus High School “will cause the return of students who have left the school district, restore existing students to their neighborhood campus and establish goodwill in the community.”
Board member Elda Flores abstained from the vote after requesting it be tabled until the board could hear from the superintendent.
Former Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra recommended the closure of Athens and Kazen in 2017 to save money amid declining enrollment. West Campus was closed in 2007 for similar reasons.
The controversial decisions have played a central role in school district politics over the last two years. After failing to get voter approval for a tax increase in August, three incumbent school board members lost their seats on the board in November.
“I believe that this document echoes the shared sentiment of the stakeholders and constituents that put me in this seat," said newly elected board member Homer Flores before voting for the resolution Wednesday. “In my opinion, I think it was irresponsible to close the schools in the first place. ... I’m taking the approach of: we’re righting a wrong.”
It’s unclear how much it will cost South San to reopen the schools. Last year, the district cut 42 positions through attrition to trim a $6.4 million shortfall.
According to district attorney Kevin O'Hanlon, the resolution directs administrators to start planning for schools to reopen, but it won’t be final until the board approves the 2019-2020 budget.
Researchers studying school closures have found that closing schools doesn’t save districts much money unless it coincides with layoffs. Studies show school closures can have negative economic effects on neighborhoods.
South San’s board meets again Thursday night at 6 to hear the superintendent’s presentation on the effect of reopening the schools.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille