Board considers planning partner ahead of possible November 2022 bond

By Anne Drabicky

Austin ISD will take the first step toward updating plans for buildings and other infrastructure as trustees on Thursday discuss hiring a planning partner to update the district’s Long-range Facilities Plan.

Formerly known as the Facility Master Plan, the new LFP will guide everything about how AISD uses its buildings and will lead, if trustees choose at a later date, to a robust community engagement process before a 2022 bond election. 

The last major updates to the plan came ahead of the 2017 Bond, with additional direction for athletics, fine arts and Career and Technical Education in the 2019 update. As the first step in the process to call for a November 2022 bond election, the revised plan would also lay the foundation for what could be included in a new bond. 

“The LFP really begins to identify the priority of schools that need improvement,” said Beth Wilson, executive director of planning and asset management. “It’s about making a timeline, making sure that schools and other district facilities get the improvements that they need to line up with the district’s vision of modernized schools.”

Often referred to as a roadmap, the LFP, like the FMP before it, helps the district, community leaders and advisory groups to prioritize which projects may end up in a bond. 

Equity as the Guide

AISD will approach this process and any potential bond in a more intentional way than the 2017 process, with a clear focus on equity and on hearing from the more marginalized groups within the community. 

Ali Ghilarducci, supervisor of community engagement, said the biggest difference for 2021 will be the use of an Equity by Design approach. That approach will look closely at the data about who the district is serving most poorly and then begin conversations with those groups.

“So when we’re developing our plans, we’re not creating solutions for people but we’re working side-by-side to identify what they would like to see to address the problems they're seeing with their schools,” Ghilarducci said. “This is at every step of the decision-making process, from even defining what the problem is, to identifying assets and opportunities and developing a shared vision.”
In partnership with the Equity Office, all staff and consultants working with the district on the LFP and the bond will receive equity training and cultural proficiency and inclusion training. 

If approved by trustees, the district also will create a Long-range Planning Advisory Committee made up of students, parents, community leaders and staff who will provide recommendations about what projects to include in the 2022 bond. 

“It starts with data gathering and meeting with focus groups, community leaders, faith-based leaders, and community and student representatives from all over the district,” Wilson said. “This is the first step.”

The approval of a contractor to act as planning partner for the LFP and bond process is among the items on the agenda preview section of this week’s Information Session. DLR Group has been proposed as the firm to work with AISD. 

Trustees do not take action during information sessions. The next regular voting meeting is scheduled for May 27. A Facebook Live interview with district leaders about the LFP is scheduled for May 12, at 6:30 p.m. in English and 7 p.m. in Spanish. 

Meeting Highlights

Trustees will also be discussing some potential changes to how the board itself operates. The proposed policy changes have several goals, including to increase transparency and provide more opportunities to hear from the public. 

The changes being considered were developed in partnership with the Council of Great City Schools and include adding a timeline for the development of agenda items for each meeting and adding opportunities for feedback on agenda items. 

The board will hear details about the recommended $1.73 billion (general, food service and debt service) budget for 2021–22, which reflects a $39.2 million deficit for the general fund. The district estimates it will pay $709 million in recapture to the state, based on a projected 7.9% increase in property tax values.

The recommended budget does not take into account the $155 million in one-time federal funds approved by the U.S. Department of Education and recently released by state officials.

This week’s Information Session also will include general public comment, which means those who call to share their thoughts may give feedback on any topic. Anyone wishing to record public comment may do so by calling 512-414-0130 between 7:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 13. 

Agenda Preview

At each Information Session, staff provide trustees and the public a preview of items that will be up for a vote or on consent during the next Regular Voting Meeting. This week’s preview includes:

  • 8.3: Innovative Course Approvals—High schools can offer courses based on student interest and college and career paths.
  • 9.1: Approval of a contract for dairy products for food services with Oak Farms Dairy.
  • 9.3: Approval of a contract for internal audit services.

For complete details, including how to sign up to share public comment, please view the agenda online.