Austin ISD has long welcomed our families and our community to use the playgrounds and open green spaces on our campuses when schools are not in session. There are 21 district campuses where a portion of the property is jointly owned with the city of Austin. In November 2022, Austin voters approved $2.44 billion in bond funds for improvements across the district, creating an opportunity for 25 schools to receive full or phased modernizations and four schools to receive open concept renovations. Nine of those schools have a portion of the land that is jointly owned by the city of Austin. Some of these modernizations will require schools to be rebuilt, and the new facilities could require infrastructure to be built on the jointly owned property. The frequently asked questions below will try to answer some of the community’s questions surrounding these nine jointly-owned properties in the context of the 2022 Bond Program.
What is the difference between parks that are joint-use, joint-interest and jointly owned?
Joint-use, joint-interest and jointly owned are terms frequently used interchangeably to refer to situations where Austin ISD and the city of Austin jointly own a portion of a school campus. There is a singular property agreement for all 21 school campuses where these joint-interest areas exist.
How many campuses with joint-interest areas will be affected?
Nine campuses with joint-interest areas will have a change to the existing boundary to accommodate the future (or existing) building structures:
- Andrews Elementary School - Modernization
- Barrington Elementary School - Modernization
- Cook Elementary School - Open Concept Renovation
- Houston Elementary School - Modernization
- Oak Springs Elementary School - Modernization
- Odom Elementary School - Open Concept Renovation
- Pecan Springs Elementary School - Modernization
- Williams Elementary School - Open Concept Renovation
- Wooldridge Elementary School - Modernization
Do Austin ISD and the city of Austin have equal ownership in the joint-interest agreement?
In the instance that Austin ISD and the city of Austin jointly own a portion of a school campus, Austin ISD holds the majority interest. Of the nine schools with joint-interest areas affected by the 2022 Bond, Austin ISD owns 75% of the joint-interest area and the city of Austin owns 25%.
Why was a joint-interest agreement established?
Austin ISD entered into a joint-interest agreement with the city of Austin in the 1960s at some schools to allow the city to fund improvements on campuses, such as playgrounds. The agreement is not intended to create additional access to campuses as Austin ISD already permits public use of playgrounds and open green spaces during non-school hours.
How will the joint-interest areas be affected by campuses with open concept renovation projects?
The joint-interest boundaries at three of the nine affected campuses (Cook, Odom and Williams) will be revised only to exclude any existing school structures. This is a small but logical correction that is desired by both the city of Austin and Austin ISD. These schools are receiving open concept renovations that will not affect the building footprint. The existing joint-interest areas currently include portions of the school infrastructure that need to be fully owned by Austin ISD. Revising the boundaries of the joint-interest area will not affect access to green space and playgrounds for these three campuses in the long-term, though they might be temporarily restricted during construction. The existing joint-interest agreement will be amended to reflect these revised boundaries.
How will the joint-interest agreement be affected by campuses with modernization projects?
Six campuses with modernization projects (Andrews, Barrington, Houston, Oak Springs, Pecan Springs and Wooldridge) will require Austin ISD to secure full (100%) ownership of the joint-interest areas before it can secure city permits to begin construction. To allow the Campus Architectural Team maximum flexibility in designing and constructing the new infrastructure, the full campus for each of these schools will be temporarily acquired by Austin ISD. Upon completion of each project, Austin ISD and the city of Austin will amend the existing joint-interest agreement to reflect the revised locations of the reestablished joint-interest areas.
How long will the six campuses be without publicly accessible green space and playgrounds?
Depending on the campus, some might maintain public access to green space and playgrounds throughout construction if the school community is able to remain on-site. Other campuses could potentially be an active construction site for up to two years with no access to green space or playgrounds. These details will be determined as each school project’s design progresses. Learn more about these modernization projects.
Will there be a joint-interest agreement after construction?
When the city of Austin sells its current joint-interest area for the six modernization campuses, those funds will be held until construction on the campus is complete. Following construction, when the campus is safe for public use, Austin ISD will amend the existing joint-interest agreement with the city of Austin to reflect the revised locations of the reestablished joint-interest area for the portion of the campus containing green space and playgrounds. The held funds will then be used by the city to re-purchase their portion of the land.
Will the current city of Austin joint-interest area be condemned, and why?
For the six modernization campuses listed (Andrews, Barrington, Houston, Oak Springs, Wooldridge, and Pecan Springs), there will be a formal condemnation process to provide Austin ISD with 100% ownership of each campus prior to construction. When property changes hands between governmental agencies (like Austin ISD and the city of Austin), the process is different than if the sale were between two private entities. The land is surveyed and appraised, and even when both parties are working in full cooperation and agreement, a formal condemnation is required under state law.
Why is a condemnation process required?
Chapter 26 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code limits a municipality’s authority, such as the city of Austin, to approve projects, like the modernization of a school campus, that requires the use or purchase of public land previously designated and used as a park or recreation area. Austin ISD may condemn the public park land at the joint-interest areas if the district provides proper notice and makes specific findings, namely that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use or purchase of such land.
Austin ISD is working in cooperation with the city of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) to meet all Chapter 26 requirements.
Does a property have to have a joint-interest agreement for the grounds to be open to the public during non-school hours?
No. All Austin ISD school grounds are open to the public during non-school hours, unless otherwise posted, or when the facilities are not in use by the District or for a scheduled nonschool purpose. The District may close such outdoor facilities to the public, on a scheduled or unscheduled basis, for maintenance or other purposes, as necessary.