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Classical School faces new problems (corrected)

Friday, July 24, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

The city of Austin’s Planning Commission postponed a decision on a Conditional Use Permit for the Austin Classical School as commissioners look for a compromise between the school and its neighbors. The school was seeking a Conditional Use Permit in order to open and operate a primary school with 99 students at 6301 Woodrow Ave.

The school has been in operation since August 2013 but has never had the required CUP. Although it did apply for a permit, that application has expired, as has a second application. The school was red-tagged for operating without a permit, and it has submitted a third application.

The AllandaleBrentwood Neighborhood Association prepared a list of several conditions it would like to see attached to the CUP. Despite this preparation, it quickly became apparent during meeting discussion that there was more work to do before a compromise would be struck.

Cici Scott is the president of the Austin Classical School board, and she learned of the permitting trouble only recently.

“As a school, we were completely unaware that we were not in compliance with a Conditional Use Permit,” Scott said. “That was news to us until about two weeks ago, when we were notified to be at this meeting. … We were not operating out of compliance on purpose. We honestly had no idea.”

Scott explained that her school model combines a traditional school with home-schooling. Under the model, she said, students are in the classroom two days per week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Sixty-two students are currently enrolled. Though that number is under the 99-student limit that would be required by the permit, staff and hours of operation are different than what the neighborhood has requested.

Neither Cici Scott nor her husband, Harry Scott, had had enough time to go over the neighborhood’s list prior to the meeting.

Jim Shackelford is a trustee with Northwest Baptist Church, which owns the property on which the school is located. Shackelford said that there were communication issues throughout the process and “there’s fault to be spread everywhere,” but that the church would take the blame for the red-tag and permitting miscommunication.

He explained that the school is seeking the CUP in order to continue operating two days a week. He said the church has been at the same location for more than 60 years and would be “more than happy” to work with the neighborhood.

Don Leighton-Burwell spoke on behalf of the steering committee of the AllandaleBrentwood Neighborhood Association and said that he didn’t fault the school at all.

Leighton-Burwell said that school officials had met with the neighborhood association at one point, and they explained that the church would be handling the CUP. The school, he said, “had been saddled with a bad landlord.”

“I fault the church completely here,” said Leighton-Burwell, who pointed out several inconsistencies in the church’s applications and the school’s future plans for operation and expansion.

Harry Scott, who said he had been involved with the school since its inception, reiterated that they had no idea they were operating out of compliance.

“We weren’t thumbing our nose at the authorities,” he said.

The Planning Commission will take up the case again at its Aug. 11 meeting.

This article has been corrected throughout to reflect the fact that the neighborhood in question is the Brentwood Neighborhood, not the Allandale Neighborhood.

Image courtesy of the City of Austin

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