Repurposing Pease Elementary School



Pease Elementary School is situated on a 2.17 acre site located in downtown Austin just  blocks away from the Texas State Capitol, and bordered by West Avenue, West 12th Street, Rio Grande Street and West 11th Street.

Pease plays an important role in the history of Austin ISD, the city of Austin and the state of Texas. Pease became a registered Texas Historic Landmark in 2013.

Since the end of the 2019-20 school year, Pease is no longer a school. However, the facility will continue to support districtwide educational purposes and honor the history and legacy of the school it once was. This process is called "repurposing."

Current Status

On August 31, 2023, the Board of Trustees unanimously authorized the Superintendent to enter negotiations and execute a lease agreement with United Way for Greater Austin to operate a year-round early childhood education center at Pease. (Review the agenda item and related documents.)

Partnering with an experienced early childhood education provider can achieve the following:

  • Honor the history and legacy of the Pease site
  • Provide access to affordable childcare to Austin ISD staff and families
  • Prepare students for kindergarten through a high-quality early childhood education center
  • Support families in seeking and maintaining employment with the reassurance of affordable childcare
  • Provide a critical need for Austin ISD employees due to real childcare shortages in the Austin-area
  • Support enrollment growth


Repurposing Process

The cost of living in Austin has risen dramatically over the past several years impacting Austin ISD families, staff and community. This has included childcare. Long waitlists, staffing issues and high prices have left many struggling to find affordable care.

Repurposing of Pease creates an opportunity for Austin ISD and United Way to offer high-quality, affordable care by opening an early childhood education center. 

No, Austin ISD is committed to maintaining ownership of the building and land. The district will enter into a long-term lease with United Way allowing them use of the campus as its central office and a center of excellence for early childhood education. United Way is partnering with Goodwill Central Texas to lead an on-site child care center within its center of excellence. The district will be responsible for maintaining the building, while United Way will be responsible for day-to-day operations. 

Over the past two years, Austin ISD hosted a series of community meetings and various input opportunities. Community members and stakeholders shared their community needs and provided ideas for how the Pease site could best respond to those needs. Austin ISD also conducted a survey of all staff to gather information about employees’ experience with living costs in Austin. The community expressed broad support for an early childhood education center on this site. 

Community presentations and meeting notes can be found on the repurposing Events page and summary reports of the community engagement can be found on the Submit Your Ideas page. 

Visit to learn more about the repurposing process.

On March 23, 2023, the Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution to direct the Interim Superintendent to identify a partner to operate a high-quality, affordable early childhood education center. (Review the agenda item and a copy of the resolution.)

Austin ISD issued a public request for proposal in April 2023, which was advertised in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper as required by Education Code 44.031 (a), (g) and posted on Bonfire (Austin ISD’s purchasing website). Proposals were received from three vendors: 

  • Learning Care Group
  • United Way for Greater Austin
  • Young Men’s Christian Association of Austin

The submitted proposals were evaluated using the factors stipulated in Education Code 44.031 (b) and predetermined factors specifically listed in the request for proposals. After a comprehensive evaluation, United Way for Greater Austin was determined to provide the best value to the district. Key factors include the demonstrated qualifications of the organization, offered programs and services, experience and educational partnership.

United Way has been dedicated to providing families with the resources they need to thrive since 1924. With its 100-year presence in Austin, expertise in best practices around early childhood education and proven track record as a facilitator of mature coalitions, United Way is uniquely positioned to utilize the space at Pease. 

United Way also plans to leverage the high-quality childhood education services offered by Goodwill Central Texas providing a unique nonprofit partnership to the Austin community with highly-qualified staff and a stimulating and innovative learning environment. Goodwill has experience offering high-quality childcare, operating The Exploration Center since 2014. The Exploration Center is a 4-star provider (the highest quality rating that can be achieved through Texas Rising Star).

Early Childhood Education Center 

The center will serve infants ages 6 weeks to five-year-old toddlers.

United Way believes every child deserves access to high-quality, accredited early care and education. Putting this belief into action, they propose to reinvigorate Pease as a center of excellence for early childhood education. The center will include an on-site child care program operated by Goodwill Central Texas that is designed to meet Texas Rising Star 4-Star quality standards, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation standards, and Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE!) Texas best practices.

United Way envisions Pease as an innovative, community-centered space that welcomes children and families from diverse backgrounds and offers programming that inspires a sense of belonging.

A priority criteria selection process will be used to enroll students. The process will take into consideration the age of the child, employment status of the caregivers, income of the family, education attainment, and family residence. To aid in a fair selection process, a rubric will be used to assess applicants. Applications are anticipated to open when the center begins operations in 2025.

The selection process for students will take into consideration:

  • Employment with Austin ISD
  • Likelihood of future enrollment in Austin ISD
  • The age of the child
  • Employment status of caregivers
  • Family Income
  • Education attainment
  • Family residence
  • Whether the family is experiencing homelessness

The early childhood center will implement an equity-based pricing model. In addition to accepting public childcare subsidies, it will offer a sliding-scale tuition structure based on family income.

More information about tuition will be available once renovations are underway and capacity is determined. 

When will the early childhood education center open?

Based on a preliminary timeline, the center is currently scheduled to open in 2025. This timeline is subject to change during design and construction.

History and Facility

The renovations will not require use of Austin ISD funds. However, Austin ISD is working closely with United Way to secure state and federal funding, in addition to grants and donations for the planned renovations of Pease.

In September 2023, Congressman Lloyd Dogget announced he secured initial approval for $3 million of federal funding for Pease pending the passing of the appropriations bill. 

In addition, Austin ISD and United Way are exploring the use of the Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. The program would cover 25% of eligible rehabilitation costs and is available for buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks and Texas State Antiquities Landmarks.

United Way is committed to raising the funds necessary through a capital campaign. If you are interested in supporting, please reach out to

Project planning is already underway. Based on a preliminary timeline, Austin ISD estimates that construction will start during Summer 2024. 

Onsite surface parking will be provided for staff and visitors. Quick and easy student drop-off and pick-up routes will be part of the site renovations. 

Outside school hours, the campus will be as open as possible for the surrounding community to enjoy the playgrounds, green space and outdoor amenities. 

Pease is one of the oldest school buildings in Texas built with public funds set aside for school purposes by the Republic of Texas in 1839. The school opened in 1876 and was named in honor of Gov. Elisha M. Pease (1812-1883). Pease was a leader in legislation that laid groundwork for support of public education in Texas. Rooms at the center of the building were constructed in 1876 and restored after a fire in 1892. Additions were made in 1916 and 1926, and remodeling was done in 1949. The detached gymnasium was built in 1997.

Thousands of children have received basic education within the walls of this historic school.

A massive heritage oak — known colloquially as The Cupcake Tree — is located on the Pease campus. The tree has provided shade from the Texas sun to thousands of students over the years and created a unique experience for alumni of Pease Elementary to share.

The Cupcake Tree will remain onsite and it will welcome new students to enjoy for years to come.

Austin ISD and United Way understand the value of the ceramic tiles, and are committed to saving them and integrating them into the new design as much as possible. The architects are working with United Way to see how we can best honor the tiles as the building is renovated. 

How will the new early childhood education center honor the history and legacy of Pease?

The new early childhood education center will honor the history and legacy of Pease by offering high quality early care and education to the youngest children in the community — future leaders, employees and employers. To have so many young children inside the building and on the playgrounds will honor the space that has provided an outstanding education to thousands of children throughout the building’s history.

Key Information

  • 1106 Rio Grande St.,
    Austin, TX 78701
  • Property ID: 196675
  • Lot Size: 2.17 acres
  • Building Size: 35,704 SF
  • Year Built: 1953
  • Parking: 58 stalls
  • Zoning: UNZ