Parents out to save city's oldest school in continuous operation

SAISD: Stephen F. Austin Fine Arts Academy facing 2016 closure

SAN ANTONIO – Several parents with students at the Stephen F. Austin Fine Arts Academy south of downtown said they are organizing an effort to save the city's oldest school in continuous operation.

According to its website, the school opened 136 years ago.

"It pioneered a lot of programs. Henry B. Gonzalez, Walter McAllister went to school here," said parent Shannan Hern.

Now Hern and others are asking if it was good enough for a congressman, a mayor and countless others, why not their children?

"We're very sad," said parent Magdalena Constantino. "I'm happy with the teachers, the school, everything that it offers."

But Leslie Price, spokeswoman for the San Antonio Independent School District, said despite the emotional connection to their school, "the bottom line is we have too many schools for the number of students today."

She said that was the reason behind a successful 2010 bond issue in response to a plan to streamline the district by closing selected schools, while renovating other schools to accommodate the additional students.

Price said Austin Academy is among the last on the list. She said it is set to close at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

"We are going to make sure that students transfer to excellent schools with very strong programs as well," said Price.

Price said the district plans to close Brewer, Nelson, Steele and W.W. White elementary schools next year.

Still, Hern said she and other parents believe Austin Academy is worth saving given its history and academic performance.

She said when she first moved into the district after the bond election, she'd heard SAISD was not considered among the best.

Yet at Austin Academy, Hern said, "What we found here was excellent!"

When she was told it was set to close, Hern said, "That can't be right. This has got to be a mistake."

Hern said despite the uphill struggle to keep its doors open, she and other parents are determined to keep trying by also asking for support from the business community.