Debate: School closings and openings, and downtown versus sprawl

Last week, two seemingly unrelated stories appeared in the same edition of the paper, one about a closed elementary school becoming a Girl Scout center, and one about two elementary schools that won’t open on time because of construction delays.

The converted elementary school is in the Edgewood school district. “Old Edgewood school to be reborn as Girl Scouts leadership center”, Elaine Ayala, San Antonio Express-News, May 24, 3012. (For a report about the school’s closing last year, see “Edgewood to close Coronado/Escobar school”, Francisco Vara-Orta, San Antonio Express-News, April 19, 2011.)

The two schools that won’t open on time are in Northeast ISD. “Two NEISD schools to open late”, Lindsay Kastner, San Antonio Express-News, May 24, 2012 and “Parents, subcontractors unhappy with elementary delays”, Lindsay Kastner, San Antonio Express-News, May 24, 2012.

Are parents voting with their feet? Are these stories evidence that families leaving inner city neighborhoods partly because they are moving to edge-of-the-sprawl neighborhoods with better schools for their children?

If so, then what does this mean for Mayor Julián Castro’s downtown development goal for SA2020? Already there are critics on the city council who oppose his suggestion of tax incentives to build more housing units downtown.  “Downtown San Antonio divide is surfacing over housing vs. jobs agenda”, W. Scott Bailey, San Antonio Business Journal, April 6, 2012 and “No to Downtown Subsidies: The View from District 9 and Councilwoman Chan”, Elisa Chan, Rivard Report, May 6, 2012.

The SA2020 program also has goals for environmental sustainability (e.g., less air pollution from cars) and neighborhood management (e.g., more urban core housing). Parents would be more likely to stay in inner city neighborhoods if they were confident they could enroll their children in good schools.

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