Maintaining green space at Fox Tech is among the top priorities for parents and students as San Antonio ISD officials continue to plan its new headquarters slated for the campus’ football field.
On Wednesday night at Fox Tech, SAISD superintendent Pedro Martinez (above) presented two options to the public that show multi-purpose green space encircled by a walking track— half the size of the current field — on two locations along West Quincy Street, between North Flores and Jackson streets, where a baseball diamond is currently located. (See below.)
Those recreational areas could potentially be closed to the public, unlike the current field, which is used by people who live in and around downtown.
The options were in response to parents and students who voiced concerns earlier this month about an office plan that would wipe out nearly all of the football field, which students still use for their physical education classes.
The football field and the main campus are divided by North Flores Street; and the total campus abuts the newly-opened San Pedro Creek Culture Park to the north.
The renderings didn’t show where on the football field the administration buildings would go or what they would look like or how much space they would consume. While the district is looking to build a 150,000-square-foot building with a parking garage, estimated to cost between $30 and $35 million, Martinez said the district is still working out the details. He added the district wants to move quickly on construction — that could begin in early 2019 — because it has to move 500 administrators before the lease on its Lavaca property ends in 2020.
The Fox Tech campus houses the district’s Advanced Learning Academy (ALA) and The Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST Tech) schools.
After the first meeting with parents and teachers on July 11, Martinez said the district learned a lot about what the community wanted and what the district was ignoring.
Some parents were still frustrated.
“We keep talking about green space generically,” Fox Tech parent Corina Maeder said. “We need to differentiate it between just a park with a bench or a space where kids can run around and play.”
YonHui Bell, a mother of a ninth grader at Fox Tech, said the first meeting was vague and caught her and other parents off guard. Ever since the district made Stuart Elementary into a charter school in a partnership with New York-based operator Democracy Prep Public Schools, Bell has been weary of the district and its decisions. Other concerns were about whether the district would try to profit off the field.
Steve Lecholop, SAISD board member for District 1, denied accusations that the project was an investment opportunity for the district.
“We are not building this to sell it in 10 years to the highest bidder,” Lecholop said. “It’s a fallacy that we have an overabundance of properties. Our properties are our schools.”
Administrators are currently scattered across several properties — the Lavaca location, but also schools — taking up more space than needed, Martinez said. Some administrative offices are taking up classroom space.
“I feel a little bit more like I understand what they’re doing now after the meeting, but I’m still not 100 percent supportive of what is happening,” Bell said.
The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 22 at Fox Tech, 637 N. Main Ave.
At the meeting Wednesday, by a show of hands, the majority of parents supported the revised plan — adding green space to make up for the loss of the field. Community members who use the space in the evenings, for walks on the track or general exercise, have been completely left out of the conversation.
Lynette Crawford, 26, and her mother and sister use the track twice a week to walk their three dogs.
“I don’t think they should do that,” Crawford said of the district’s plans. “I was super excited when I found this place. We tell everybody about it.”
Natalie Garcia, 22, lives near San Pedro Park and often visits the track with her family to run and enjoy the view of the city. She had finally convinced her dad to come out and walk. Garcia said she never minded the overgrown grass and the worn down track. She had just thought the district would eventually fix it.
“That’s disappointing,” Garcia said. “I’m not happy about that at all.”
Martinez said he would be willing to open the future green space and walking track to the public, but would first have to consider safety issues.
“In terms of the field on the school, once we build it, it would be accessible, we would just want to make sure there was enough safety precautions around it,” Martinez said. “We would want to think about how we would do fencing and those kinds of things.”
SAISD plans to build new headquarters on Fox Tech field
Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron