As a result of Austin’s exponential growth, Austin ISD has been experiencing growing pains as more and more children enroll in area schools. To help alleviate the overcrowding of elementary schools in North Central Austin, the district decided to take an innovative approach and transform an old warehouse into a new school. Formerly occupied by Acuity Brands Lighting Inc., the warehouse is located at Metric Boulevard and Rundberg Lane and measures 27,000 square feet in size. With 57 classrooms and the capacity to enroll up to 800 students, North Central Elementary School #2 will be the largest elementary school in the district.
Austin ISD typically builds schools from the ground up, but open land in the north central area is hard to come by. This is the first time the school district has attempted a project like this, but the construction company Flintco has had plenty of experience revamping existing buildings. The company has several similar projects on their resume, including the renovation of Highland Mall into an Austin Community College campus. The design plan for the new school includes skylights in every classroom, a new kindergarten playground in place of the warehouse’s loading dock and an oversized cafeteria and library. Austin ISD usually designs schools with 32 classrooms and plans for a future addition of 8 classrooms, but this project has taken a different route. Building more classrooms now means less time and money spent on adding and removing portables while new facilities are added to an already overcrowded school.
Upon completion, students from Wooldridge and Cook Elementary schools will attend North Central Elementary School #2. Presently, these schools are housing 400 more students than they were originally designed for. The district estimates that at least 168 more elementary school students will be attending schools in this area in 2016-2017, so the oversized school has been designed to handle the area’s future growth. Like their students, teachers from other area schools will be transferred to the new campus, while cafeteria staff and other positions will be filled with new hires. Most students slated to attend the new school live within a two-mile radius, so they will be able to walk to school. The district is already working on creating a system of “walking school buses”, where teachers and volunteers will walk groups of students to and from school safely. North Central Elementary School #2 is expected to open in time for the 2014-2015 school year.