Due to a recent Texas Attorney General opinion regarding transfer student transportation, Louise ISD has the option to seek an agreement with El Campo ISD to continue to pick up/drop off students at Legacy Park.
During its transportation report, the LISD trustees discussed reaching out to ECISD for an interlocal agreement, the district’s options regarding potential pick up/drop off sites within its own district’s boundaries and possibly applying with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for another transport waiver.
“The previous operating procedure was if you needed to go within another district’s boundaries to pick up kids, then it was OK, but one district opposed it, and then it went to the Attorney General who issued an opinion and said it wasn’t appropriate,” LISD Superintendent Garth Oliver said.
A longstanding practice between Texas school districts regarding transfer students has been an “open borders” policy where these students are picked up and dropped off without an interlocal agreement between districts.
As it stands, no interlocal agreement exists between LISD and ECISD, according to Oliver.
“This has always been the way it was done. We have kids who come from El Campo and kids who go to El Campo from Louise. The difference is we provide transportation, and we go with what is convenient and safe,” he added.
“We go to the edge of the district, and not through all of El Campo to pick up kids, but it happens to be right in the corner of El Campo’s district. It’s convenient and safe versus picking them up on the side of the road in front of the cemetery.”
When the district’s former pick up/drop off site for its transfer students proved unsafe, and another location within ECISD failed, last year LISD reached out to the City of El Campo to use Legacy Field as a safer option.
“The city said that was fine. We pulled up right in front of the pond,” Oliver said.
“Even though the Attorney General said we couldn’t, last year TEA gave us a waiver because of the hardship and the waiver is good for one year. We just had to apply for the waiver,” Oliver said.
Because the opinion was issued after the end of the 85th Legislature and a conflict between enrollment and transportation was not resolved during the 86th legislative session, a district may apply for a waiver for the 2019-2020 school year. The waiver comes with additional requirements though, and those are that the district:
• Must make a good faith effort to enter into an interlocal agreement with an outside district to provide for transporting of transfer students.
• Must adopt a local policy during the 2019-2020 school year that bars the district from screening the approval of transfer enrollees on the basis if academics, discipline or attendance regardless of any related exemption under a local District of Innovation Plan or authority under statute.
In the event ECISD says no to an interlocal agreement, LISD has the waiver option, but one concern remains: LISD routinely screens its transfer students.
“Without a waiver, we can continue to screen, but we’d have to pick them up elsewhere that is not within ECISD, and more than likely that would be on the side of the road or at the cemetery like before which is unsafe,” Oliver said.
Trustee Mark Bain suggested the district possibly maintain a Louise business’ limestone parking lot in exchange for use as a pick up/drop off site.
Oliver and board president Linda Alderson said the best case scenario is to enter into an interlocal agreement with ECISD.
“As it stands, we should not pick up the kids at Legacy Park. We should attempt to enter an interlocal agreement,” Oliver said.
The district has to either have reached an agreement or received a waiver before school starts toward the end of August.
“Hopefully, we can reach an interlocal agreement and be done with it otherwise the issue of having to accept every student to get the waiver has to come before the board again,” Oliver said.