AUSTIN (KXAN) — It is the first day of class for T.A. Brown Elementary students at their new schools.
While the semester started back in August, deep structural issues forced Austin ISD leaders to suddenly close the North Austin school on Nov. 3. Last week, engineers discovered potentially dangerous issues with the nearly 60-year-old building, including a sinking floor that threatened to collapse.
“The floor was unstable,” said Chelsy Guzman, a fourth-grader at T.A. Brown.
School leaders moved nearly 400 students to two separate schools. On Wednesday, Pre-K and Kindergarten student started classes at Reilly Elementary and all other students are now at Allan Elementary. Parents say they are on board with the sudden change.
“I understand the safety issues,” said Theresa Cantu, a local parent. “And, I know as a parent, your child’s safety is always first.”
Now, the halls at T.A. Brown resemble the end of the school year. Teachers and faculty spent much of the week removing books, decorations and art projects from their classes.
But, the search for other AISD schools with dangerous damage continues, said the district’s Executive Director of Facilities Paul Turner.
“This is exactly the kind of finding that shows for the community some of the needs we have for our schools,” Turner said. “They’re 40-years-old on the average. Some of them as many as 60 or even 100 years old.”
Austin ISD is in the middle of updating their Master Facilities Plan with an in-depth look at how school buildings stack up. The district released the report card in October. So far, no other school building has problems equivalent to T.A. Brown Elementary.
“We are looking at some structural issues that we’ve identified at other schools,” said Matias Segura, a spokesman with AECOM engineering firm. “As of right now, none of them are as severe as Brown.”
The updated plan could lead to a 2017 bond that, if approved, would flush millions into AISD’s coffers. It is money needed to improve the district’s aging buildings, Turner said.
“That first bond that we’ll have that will be potentially done in 2017 will be a first opportunity to try to address some of the issues we’re uncovering in our assessments,” Turner said.