$1.1B would help re­vamp East­side, LBJ

But critic calls dis­trict’s plans for cam­puses ‘bla­tant seg­re­ga­tion.’

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - METRO & STATE - By Melissa B. Taboada

Austin school lead­ers plan to mod­ern­ize the en­tire dis­trict and all 130 schools if voters ap­prove a $1.1 bil­lion Novem­ber bond mea­sure — with $106.3 mil­lion ear­marked for lift­ing two high schools with his­to­ries of aca­demic strug­gles and low en­roll­ment.

Bond plans call for East­side Memo­rial High School, cur­rently lo­cated at the for­mer John­ston High cam­pus in East Austin, to be built at the site of the orig­i­nal L.C. An­der­son High School, “right-sized” for its 800 stu­dents.

The new lo­ca­tion for East­side — which be­gan its early col­lege pro­gram this fall, of­fer­ing stu­dents a chance to earn an as­so­ciate de­gree in high school — will be across the street from an Austin Com­mu­nity Col­lege cam­pus, of­fer­ing stu­dents bet­ter ac­cess to classes.

The move would save East­side, which was threat­ened with clo­sure by the state four years ago, and cut short any con­ver­sa­tions on shut­ter­ing it to con­sol­i­date with an­other sec­ondary school in the fu­ture, said Trustee Jayme Mathias, who rep­re­sents the neigh­bor­hoods around East­side and has worked with res­i­dents and par­ents on its fate.

The new East­side cam­pus would be the first high school built east of In­ter­state 35 in decades.

“This is one way in which we can help to ame­lio­rate this sit­u­a­tion of his­tor­i­cal un­der­in­vest­ment in the stu­dents and schools of East Austin,” Mathias said. “The

com­mu­nity of East Austin could come plan to­gether to build the high school of our dreams, the high school our kids and grand­kids de­serve.”

But not ev­ery­one is em­brac­ing the change. John­ston High alumni, as well as other East Austin ad­vo­cates, are protest­ing the move. They say it does noth­ing for the stu­dents who are cur­rently in high school there and that dis­trict lead­ers made the de­ci­sion hastily, with lit­tle com­mu­nity in­put.

They also say it will dis­place the largely low-in­come, eth­nic mi­nor­ity stu­dents who at­tend East­side to make way for the Lib­eral Arts and Science Academy, or LASA, which has strug­gled with stu­dent di­ver­sity, to get a stand-alone build­ing. It’s cur­rently housed at LBJ High School. Ear­lier plans called for LASA to get a $125 mil­lion newly con­structed build­ing, but ad­min­is­tra­tors took the project off the list to bring bond costs down. Trus­tees later agreed LASA could be housed at a slightly ren­o­vated John­ston cam­pus to al­low the school to expand to 2,000 stu­dents.

“Clos­ing East Austin schools and tak­ing a mostly An­glo school, LASA, out of a mostly African-American school, LBJ, and dis­plac­ing a mostly Latino school, East­side Memo­rial High School, so LASA can have that cam­pus and plac­ing three high schools — East­side Memo­rial, LBJ and Rea­gan — in one dis­trict, Dis­trict 1, is bla­tant seg­re­ga­tion,” said Peggy Vasquez of the Save East Austin Schools PAC, which op­poses the po­ten­tial clo­sure of schools on the east side and ad­vo­cates for East­side to re­main at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion.

The plan for LBJ if LASA leaves

If the bond passes and na­tion­ally ranked LASA moves out of LBJ High, LBJ will have only 850 stu­dents left on a cam­pus with room for more than 1,900. The dis­trict plans to use that space to build the first phase of a health pro­fes­sions school, one that would be avail­able to trans­fer stu­dents, and be­gin the sec­ond phase of its new Ca­reer Launch pro­gram in the same field, along with other im­prove­ments that would total $25.6 mil­lion.

LBJ’s Ca­reer Launch pro­gram is a work­force train­ing pro­gram, which started last month, fo­cused on ap­plied science in nurs­ing and other health fields. It is one of two acad­e­mies aimed at giv­ing mostly first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege stu­dents and those from low-in­come fam­i­lies a chance to earn an as­so­ciate de­gree while work­ing to­ward their high school diplo­mas. The pro­gram pre­pares stu­dents to en­ter the job mar­ket with their twoyear de­grees, though they could also pur­sue fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion.

The school al­ready has used grant funds to put in hos­pi­tal beds to be used for train­ing pur­poses. But the sec­ond phase would in­clude its own en­trance with a wait­ing room, as well as mod­ern­ized class­rooms and fur­nish­ings. A third phase, which would be in­cluded in a fu­ture bond, would launch a health clinic, run by a hos­pi­tal or health or­ga­ni­za­tion, to serve the com­mu­nity and pro­vide the stu­dents a live train­ing ground.

The health pro­fes­sions school is ex­pected to pre­pare stu­dents for Tier I uni­ver­si­ties and con­tin­u­a­tion into med­i­cal school.

“They’re go­ing to com­ple­ment each other,” said Craig Shapiro, Austin’s as­so­ciate su­per­in­ten­dent of high schools. “We’re putting to­gether a med­i­cal-themed high school in one place and pro­vid­ing the equipment and bring­ing it to the kids. We’re try­ing to ex­pose and to help stu­dents re­al­ize that th­ese pro­fes­sions are open to them, and they can ex­cel. This is a great way to pro­vide them first ac­cess into the health pro­fes­sions.”


East­side Memo­rial High, now at the for­mer John­ston High cam­pus in East Austin, might be re­built at the site of the orig­i­nal L.C. An­der­son High.

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