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Bond opponents challenge structural report that closed T.A. Brown Elementary

Opponents of a proposed Austin ISD school bond package are questioning the engineering reports that the district is using to back up its bond request. (CBS Austin)

Opponents of a proposed Austin ISD school bond package are questioning the engineering reports that the district is using to back up its bond request. And at the center of the issue is T.A. Brown Elementary School.

It was a sad day when AISD announced that problems with the floors of T.A. Brown were so severe the students wouldn't be allowed back in ... ever. The district plans to tear down and replace the school if voters approve the bonds they want to put before the voters in November.

And T.A. Brown is just one of a number of schools the district wants to replace. Austin ISD board members are going down a long list of problems with their schools as they work toward finalizing a $989 million bond package.

The district hired a consultant to help rank the schools’ conditions. AISD Communications Director Reyne Telles says, “One of the lowest scores we had was T.A. Brown. And we know that the school had to be shut down because of the structural problems that the school is actually having."

But opponents of the bonds wonder if it had to happen. Don Zimmerman with the Travis County Taxpayer’s Union says, “We have some information that the consultants the engineers are being pressured to exaggerate poor conditions of the buildings in order to justify demolition."

Thursday the group formally requested engineering reports and e-mails regarding the problems with the supports for the school's floors. Zimmerman, himself a mechanical engineer says, “We routinely repair these types of problems in older structures. It's likely that that school could be repaired and be sound for less than a million dollars. That's very likely."

But the district wants to make the school better than it was before. Telles says, “That doesn't mean we're just going to go in and fix the structural unit itself. We're going to be providing very cutting edge educational spaces when we redo a space."

AISD released the following statement:

The safety and security of our students is our top priority. Our taxpayers and parents can be assured that we made the decision to close T.A. Brown Elementary School with extensive information from trusted engineers with our students in mind.

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