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$1 Billion Bond in Hands of Voters Tomorrow

Austin High Could Gain $30 Million in Campus Improvements

AISD+proposed+improvements+for+Austin+High+include+an+expanded+athletics+wing+and+additional+learning+spaces.+
AISD proposed improvements for Austin High include an expanded athletics wing and additional learning spaces.

AISD proposed improvements for Austin High include an expanded athletics wing and additional learning spaces.

AISD proposed improvements for Austin High include an expanded athletics wing and additional learning spaces.

Joslynn Sanchez, Copy Editor

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Austin Independent School District is conducting a Bond Election to decide whether or not $1 billion of tax money should go towards improving AISD facilities and amenities. According to AISD, the bond would be used to “modernize or construct” more facilities to alleviate overcrowding in schools and provide an enhanced learning experience for students.

The cost of necessary improvement projects at Austin High is estimated to be over $30 million, which is included in the overall price tag of the proposed bond. This money would mainly go towards additions to the school’s athletics complex, as well as additions for collaborative learning spaces.

The process of creating this bond package began with an analysis of current AISD facilities, which took place during the summer of 2016 by an engineering group hired by the district. Facilities were then given two scores, one based on their current conditions in terms of physical structure, and another score based on their suitability as a learning environment for students. These comprehensive assessments were then used to holistically analyze the needs of the district’s facilities. The approach used through the bond is “worst-first,” meaning that schools with the most imperative needs would have their projects conducted first, lengthening the execution of the bond over multiple years. This process resulted in the Master Plan, that included all projects planned through the bond.

Austin High was given average rankings in both the Facility Condition Assessment and the Educational Suitability Assessment, meaning  that the school will most likely see upgrades to the existing structure in forms of remodeling.

Opposition to the bond believes  that AISD has not been transparent enough throughout the bond process, and is concerned that the distribution of money in the district is not equitable to schools in East Austin. Concerns regarding the tax rate have also risen, although it’s been widely advertised by AISD that tax rates will remain the same.

In a conference call with superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz, journalism students from various schools were given a special opportunity to learn more about the details of the bond and how it affects schools throughout the district. According to Cruz, the bond package will work to greatly alleviate issues of overcrowding  many schools are currently facing. Without the bond, AISD might be forced to close schools or facilities permanently, students might be relocated to other schools due to overcrowding, and costs of emergency repairs would put salaries of employees and various programs at risk.

The district, its employees, and master planning committees were unable to advocate for or against the bond due to official Election Code that prohibits the use of public funds for political advertisements. The advertisement campaign used by AISD focused on informing the public in order to be as transparent with the bond process as possible. Throughout the early fall semester, open houses were hosted by AISD at various high school campuses which reached every area of the district. At these events, the bond process was explained and people were given the opportunity to express concerns about how the bond would affect their schools.

With voting ending tomorrow, the district awaits the results of the bond election to see what the future of AISD and its schools holds.

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$1 Billion Bond in Hands of Voters Tomorrow