San Antonio ISD is considering a serious overhaul, which includes closing nearly one-fifth of its schools. District officials suggested the closures as part of an effort to improve the overall educational experience of both students and teachers.
The full plan consists of school closures, mergers and expansions. It’s set for a board vote on Nov. 13.
The suggested changes have sparked concerns among parents and activists who worry about disruption to students’ education and the loss of community associated with the closing campuses.
Scott Huddleston, a staff writer at the San Antonio Express-News, said part of the calculator for the district was the age of some of their campuses.
“We know that they have a lot of old schools. It’s a very historic district. The district’s roots date to 1854,” he said. “And so they have schools that they’re looking at closing that are as old as some that date back to 1902. And I think the most recently constructed of the schools targeted for closure was built in 1965.”
However, Huddleston said the district has not given an explanation about how they chose which schools to close, merge or expand.
“They’ve talked about the enrollment numbers quite a bit, and this has been a three-month run up to where we are at this point,” he said. “The enrollment has dropped more than 25% in the past 25 years from about, I think, 61,000 to about 45,000 now.”
The district has talked about closing 19 schools — 17 campuses would close next fall and another two schools in the fall of 2025. This represents nearly one-fifth of the district’s schools.
“There’s a lot of issues here, not just the education process and the quality of the education, but land use and inner city revitalization, preservation of the urban core and just maintaining the goodwill of the community,” he said.
The community reaction has been a mixed bag, Huddleston said.
“I’ve seen on my Facebook page, someone said, ‘this makes me very sad,’ but someone else was saying, ‘well, good for them. They’re tightening up their belt. They’re looking for efficiencies,’” he said. “When you think about an organization, you want to do a rightsizing projection maybe every two to five years, depending on, you know, what your enrollment is trending at.”
District leadership has said this will allow them to focus on improving their remaining campuses.
“They talk in terms of thriving campuses and what that would look like,” Huddleston said. “So you would have, you know, a mental health professional, you would have a librarian, you would have a security officer, all of those kinds of basic things that a parent would expect on the campus where their child is attending.”
Huddleston said San Antonio ISD is not the only district in the state — or even in Bexar County — to face the choice to close schools.
“We have some districts that are growing. We have some that have had declining enrollment. South San Antonio this year closed a few schools, including a middle school, and so did Harlandale. They did that, their board action occurred in March, and they closed this fall,” he said.
“What San Antonio Independent School District is doing is they’re trying to take action in November, which is earlier than the other school districts did, so that the parents can be prepared to make choices. They have to make choices where their child is going to go next year.”