San Antonio ISD releases preliminary school consolidation plan impacting half of the district’s schools
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By this time next year, the San Antonio Independent School District could have 17 fewer schools — with another two schools slated for closure the following year.
All told, the preliminary school consolidation plan presented to the board Monday night would impact half of the district’s 98 campuses and cut the number of buildings SAISD operates by 20%. In addition to the 19 schools recommended for closure, 30 would receive more students, relocate, or change their grade configuration.
Administrators told the board they set specific thresholds for enrollment size, building capacity and the cost of funding the school per student. A school that failed to meet one of the three thresholds put the campus up for consideration for closure, based on what the district calls “contextual criteria.” A breakdown of the thresholds by school was available on the district’s website.
Guardrails established by the district include keeping all seven of the district’s comprehensive high schools and consolidating free-standing early childhood centers with elementary schools and K-8 academies.
Preliminary school consolidation list:
- Lamar Elementary
- Pershing Elementary
- Carroll Early Childhood Center
- Douglass Elementary School
- Gates Elementary School
- Miller Elementary School
- Tynan Early Childhood Center
- Forbes Elementary
- Foster Elementary
- Highland Park Elementary
- Collins Garden Elementary
- Knox Early Childhood Center
- Lowell Middle School
- Riverside Park Elementary
- Ogden Elementary
- Storm Elementary
- Baskin Elementary
- Huppertz Elementary
- Nelson Early Childhood Center
- Gonzales Early Childhood Center
- Green Elementary
- Beacon Hill Academy
- Washington Elementary School
- Japhet Academy
Schools receiving students from closed schools:
- Bonham Academy
- Hawthorne Academy
- Cameron Elementary School
- Davis Middle School
- ML King Academy
- Ball Elementary
- Highland Hills Elementary
- Hot Wells Middle School
- Schenk Elementary
- Steele Montessori Academy
- Briscoe Elementary
- Herff Elementary
- Hillcrest Elementary
- Kelly Elementary
- Smith Elementary
- Barkley/Ruiz Elementary
- Crockett Academy
- JT Brackenridge Elementary
- Sarah King Elementary
- Cotton Academy
- Twain Dual Language Academy
- Whittier Middle School
- Arnold Elementary
- Fenwick Academy
- Maverick Elementary
- Woodlawn Hills Elementary
In a pre-recorded video administrators said was produced to increase public access, Deputy Superintendent Patti Salzmann said feedback during 14 community meetings held during the beginning of the school year was “generally affirming” of the district’s proposed criteria but helped sharpen the framework.
“The community has told us of the importance of our unique and specialty academic programs such as dual language, international Baccalaureate, Montessori, early college and single gender schooling,” Salzmann said. “We've altered the contextual criteria so that in the event of a rightsizing decision, the district will ensure students can seamlessly continue their education without disruptions to the academic services.”
None of the district’s open-enrollment choice schools are included in the list recommended for closure.
Dozens of families worried about losing their child’s school signed up to speak during public comments, and so many people logged onto the board’s Zoom meeting that it exceeded capacity.
“If you do close that school what is going to happen to my son? Where is he going to go? What help are you going to help him with?” asked Maricela Palao, an SAISD food services worker who said she moved her son to another high school to receive more special education services.
Palao said she loved SAISD and credited Fox Tech High School with preparing her two eldest for college.
Ronni Gura Sadovsky was one of several parents from Lamar Elementary that implored the board not to close their school in the Mahnke Park neighborhood. She was also one of several speakers that felt the time between the district’s proposal and the last community meeting was too short for administrators to truly incorporate feedback.
“It suggests to me that maybe the call for community input was only pro-forma, only for appearance's sake, and not for really understanding what the community's needs are,” Ronnie said.
However, Superintendent Jaime Aquino pushed back against concerns school closures could increase inequity.
“By failing to adjust the number of schools we operate as our enrollment decreased, we have unintentionally created systemic inequity that exist today and have existed for many, many years,” Aquino said.
The list of schools slated for closure is preliminary, and may be adjusted based on feedback the district receives at neighborhood meetings scheduled for September and October. Administrators will present a final list of recommended school closures to the board on Nov. 13.
The SAISD board of trustees voted in June to begin the process of consolidating schools.
'This is about what's right'
According to the district’s analysis, enrollment has dropped by more than 20% over the last 20 years and birth rates and housing patterns predict enrollment will continue to decline in the future. In 2003, SAISD had nearly 57,000 students. Today, it has less than 45,000.
Two smaller neighboring school districts, Harlandale and South San, each closed a handful of schools last year to help balance their budgets. But Aquino said in August reducing costs is not the primary reason his district needs to consolidate schools.
“There will be some saving. But that's not the main reason, because the saving for a budget our size is going to be insignificant. This is about what's right for our students, our family and our staff,” Aquino said.
Aquino said consolidating schools will save money, but not a significant amount compared to the overall budget. He said the goal is to make better — and fairer — use of the district’s funding, not reduce how much it spends.
According to a district analysis, SAISD spends around $14,000 per student to run its smallest elementary school, but only about $7,000 per student to run its largest elementary.
“Even though our smaller schools are more expensive to operate, they get less services. For example, they have split classes. We can't offer full-time music or full-time art. They don't have a full-time librarian. They don't have a full-time counselor,” Aquino said. “On the other hand, our larger schools are getting less resources per student because (that) money (is) going to subsidize the smaller schools.”
Probably no layoffs
Split classes have two grade levels in one classroom. SAISD’s small schools also usually only have one teacher per grade. The district hopes that consolidation will let teachers have peers to collaborate with and give students the options of moving classrooms if one teacher isn’t a good fit.
Because the district’s goal is to distribute funding more equitably, not cut it, Aquino said he isn’t planning on laying off staff. He said employees will move with students to their new schools, and consolidations will also help with the district’s ongoing staffing shortages.
“I cannot stand in front of you and say that I 100% guarantee nobody will lose their job. What I am saying is that is very unlikely,” Aquino said.
According to SAISD, more than 1,000 people — including nearly 400 parents and nearly 600 employees — attended the district’s 14 neighborhood meetings to provide input on the criteria it should use to decide which schools to close.
A coalition of organizations spearheaded by the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel is advocating for school communities to vote on whether or not their schools close.
Alliance President Alejandra Lopez reiterated that call on Monday.
“School closures have been presented as the only path forward for our historic district. The only possible remedy for dealing with declining enrollment and a persistent lack of funding,” Lopez said. “Absent in the district's discourse is the very real reality that school closures across the country have had overwhelmingly negative consequences on students, families and communities, most notably when it comes to student achievement.”
However, SAISD trustees planned to make the final decision themselves. The district’s position was that it remained the board’s responsibility to make that decision.