A rendering of the SAISD Administrative Building.
A rendering of the proposed SAISD Administrative Building. Credit: Courtesy / SAISD

Despite facing a short timeline for constructing a new central office and vacating its current property near Southtown, San Antonio Independent School District pushed back approving designs for district headquarters Monday night so officials can gather more community input.

Trustees delayed approving building plans for the proposed three-story, 140,000-square-foot structure that will sit adjacent to San Pedro Creek Park and across the street from the Fox Tech campus on what is now the school’s football field.

District administrators plan to use the proposed facility to consolidate 30 departments located in six different facilities. An estimated 625 employees will work in the new building.

A decision about preserving green space on the campus caused the delay. District officials presented trustees with two options: having green space border the creek or located closer to the Fox Tech campus along North Flores Street. But some expressed concern about making a decision before getting input from parents.

“My fear is that the parents and the stakeholders that advocated so assertively to maintain that green space would see this as creating a public park and not creating learning space,” said trustee Steve Lecholop. “Now I don’t know this, and I don’t think any of us know this, because we haven’t engaged the parents or the stakeholders to ask these questions and that ultimately is my concern.”

Until recently, SAISD was tentatively planning to keep the green space closer to Flores Street with easy access for students and staff. Then the San Antonio River Authority proposed switching the green space to abut the creek and create more of a continuous outdoor park. Depending on the space’s location, the area could grow by a few tenths of an acre.

In February, the district sold the land where its offices currently are located for $14.5 million to the group that redeveloped the Pearl. In the sale agreement, SAISD arranged to lease the land from the buyers for 28 months for $100 a year.

Construction on new headquarters was slated to begin in April and was expected to be completed for an August 2020 move-in date. Despite a delay in voting to approve the plans, Superintendent Pedro Martinez said he hopes that is still the case, but the priority is getting everyone’s feedback on the plan.

Funding to construct the facility comes from the sale of Southtown property and sale of other properties at Alamo and Austin streets and a food service warehouse.

The office will be built at the site of the football field that sits adjacent to Fox Tech High School and near San Pedro Creek Park. Fox Tech doesn’t have a football team and therefore doesn’t use it for football practices, although community members often use the track that circles around the field.

Earlier this summer, SAISD sought input on the headquarters plan in a series of public meetings. Parents expressed concerns that losing the football field would lessen the availability of outdoor space for students.

SAISD plans to present parents with the options for green space to get feedback and bring the decision to the board. Martinez said he hopes SARA will explain why it prefers having the green space site adjacent to the creek.

This may delay the construction process, pushing back needed city approvals. Trustee Debra Guerrero said if collecting input meant pushing the schedule, the district could negotiate their leasing agreement at their current district headquarters to extend the timeline.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.