Overcrowded Austin schools have parents calling for relief

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin ISD has been losing thousands of enrolled students in recent years, and a demographic study suggests the district will lose 6,000 more over the next decade. Even so, some parts of AISD are experiencing severe overcrowding. That is because of shifting population movements, something they’re calling the “donut effect”.

One of those overcrowded areas is in northwest Austin, where Hill and Doss Elementary, and Murchison Middle School feed Anderson High. All are overcrowded. All have portables sprouting up like so many bluebonnets. Some parents are calling for relief. Chris Harrison has a child at Doss, “It is difficult. My daughter’s been here two years now and been in a portable both years.” Another Doss parent, Julia Zommea, has an idea, “It would be good if they build the schools up, it would be better than going wide, build going upward.”

The district tries to reconfigure school space to make more room, they also work on shifting boundaries, but there is no magic bullet. This area is an affluent one, yet their schools are crowded like other places. Why? Changing neighborhoods. Paul Turner, executive director of AISD Facilities explains, “Residents turn over and younger families with children move in. That causes an increase in enrollment in those schools which we need to continue to help them manage.”

The overcrowding leads to staggered times for lunch and gym, there’s just no room. Other parents do not mind the portables. Sandra Ely says, “My sixth grader went from K though 5th here and some of her best years were in portables. It really depends on the teacher.” Jonas Alvarez, a teacher at Murchison, believes, “Portables do not put them at a disadvantage.You are away from the main part of campus and have to go to portables but I think if you have a good teacher, that’s how it works. And these portables have good technology in them for the students to learn.”

The bottom line is that there will be no new school built anywhere in Austin until voters approve bond funding, and the last time they said no. The next possible bond election could be May of 2017, but that is not decided, just a possibility.

In 2013 voters approved two Austin ISD bonds but rejected two others. The two that passed provided money for equipment, technology and renovations.

Voters rejected spending for academic and athletic programs, and another proposition of $234-million that would have built three new schools and other campus additions.

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