Austin ISD fourth grader shining light on leaks, mold at school

Classrooms with wall partitions at Menchaca Elementary (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)
Classrooms with wall partitions at Menchaca Elementary (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A 10-year-old student got the attention of trustees with the Austin Independent School District this week.

Ava Georg, a fourth grader at Menchaca Elementary School in south Austin, stepped up to the microphone to speak during the public comments portion of the Austin Independent School Board meeting Monday night to share concerns about her campus, and advocate for a new building.

“A couple weeks ago during the STAAR test water came into my classroom from the bathroom and interrupted the test,” Georg told trustees. “And this is just one of the many times this has happened. I would also like to notify you my brother is in kindergarten and has no windows or doors in his classroom.”

She went on to talk about students having to evacuate classrooms due to flooding, and said a student broke her elbow a few weeks ago while leaning on a partition that separates the gym and the cafeteria. The problems did not stop there.

“My music teacher had to move rooms because mold was growing in her old room…I feel these situations I described are serious and our school deserves a brand new building,” said Georg.

The music teacher, Leslie Rubio, says she discovered the first round of mold two years ago. Maintenance crews tried to take care of it, but with more rain came more leaks and more mold.

“Last year we had 45 documented leaks on our campus,” said Rubio.

Georg is also looking out for her little brother, Bronson, who is in kindergarten at Menchaca.

“He has no sunlight, walls or a door [in his classroom],” said Georg.

There are no windows in his classroom, and the walls that divide the rooms don’t go all the way up to the ceiling. The school was designed more than 40 years ago with an open concept. It worked at the time, but Principal Eliza Loyola says now the campus is overcrowded and there are too many students crammed into the tight space.

“All the noise travels, so any technology that’s used in one classroom can be heard in the next classroom,” said Loyola. “And any singing that’s done in one classroom can be heard in eight other classrooms.”

Another concern is the widening of the two roads that run right in front of the campus. Construction is set to begin next year to make Farm to Market 1626 and the southernmost part of Manchaca Road five lanes. When the project is complete the cars will be even closer to the campus.

“The highway is fast in front of our school,” said Bronson, Ava’s younger brother. “So that’s why I think we should get a new school, and because of all the concerns we have.”

The AISD bond committee says a new campus for Menchaca Elementary is high on the bond priority list. One option is building it on the same piece of property, which is 20 acres, just further back.

The district is still finalizing what could go on the ballot for a potential bond election in November.

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