AUSTIN, TEXAS - The corridors, once filled with bustling activity, now were quiet and dark. School posters and lunch menus had been replaced by graffiti, and the men who walked the hallways were not teachers, but contractors sent to demolish the school. They would have problems; the dilapidated old building was not as empty as it looked.
|Old Metz Elementary (Pictured here just before the demolitions began.)|
Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas
Metz Elementary opened in 1916. That same year, the school board decided that Spanish-speaking children should attend a separate school. The board felt that the children would learn better if they had lessons in Spanish as well as English. Up until that time, the Mexican-American community in Austin had not formally protested any action taken by the school board, but many people from the neighborhood most affected appeared before the board to disagree with the decision. The proposed school would be several miles away, making transportation difficult for the children and their parents; there was also a concern that if the Spanish-speaking students were segregated, they would not have the same opportunities as the those who spoke English. While the board never formally backed down from its position, Spanish-speaking students who attended the nearby school, Metz Elementary, were never asked to leave or to attend the other school, and after a period of time, the matter was quietly dropped.
Metz Elementary served the community through the better part of eight decades, but by 1989 the school was considered too small to meet the growing needs of the surrounding neighborhood. The decision was reached to tear down the structure and build a new and bigger school in its place. The crew who arrived to do the work did not anticipate any problems; there appeared to be nothing difficult about demolishing the crumbling structure.
A new school stands almost in the same spot as the old Metz Elementary and now fulfills the same role in the community that the first smaller school did for so long. Perhaps the ties to the neighborhood and the school are so strong that some students never really leave.