Saturday, July 21, 2018
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Dr-Robert-OConnorCiting a lack of growth in the student population, the Sharyland School Board of Trustees voted to commence open enrollment so students outside the district can attend Sharyland district schools.


However, students outside the district interested in attending SISD schools must go through a strict application process and pay a $2,500 yearly fee.


“We’re one of the few districts in South Texas that doesn’t allow external transfers,” District Superintendent Robert O’Connor told the board during a presentation during an Aug. 28 school board meeting. “We’ve always been very exclusive and we’ve had kids choosing to go to other districts but we can’t, in turn recruit from other districts.”


According to O’Connor, transfers will ultimately be assigned by him and there will be a limit on how many students can be accommodated per grade level.


“The intent of the transfer policy request is a high standard. You must pay tuition upfront and the final decision will be based on space.” O’Connor said. “Right now our Sharyland High School elementary feeder schools have space so we’ll probably place elementary students there. Sharyland North Junior High School is almost at capacity so middle schoolers will probably be placed in the B.L. Gray campus and both high schools seem to be evenly divided so based on requests, we might allow students to enroll in both campuses.”


According to the district’s budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Sharyland ISD is expecting a Student Average Daily Attendance of 9,542, the same as last year.  In a 10 year ADA comparison the district released, the district hit a high of 9,725 students in the 2013-2014 school year but has been steadily declining ever since.


Attendance in elementary school in the district has been declining within the last three years. In a September 2016 school board meeting, O’Connor attributed the decline to a lack of new families moving into the area.


Students qualify to enroll if they meet all disciplinary, academic and attendance requirements, O’Connor said. If a student from outside the district is enrolled in the  Sharyland ISD, parents must provide their own transportation to their child’s campus and students will be expected to maintain all requirements throughout the school year and reapply for enrollment each school year.  A nonrefundable tuition fee of $1,250 will be assessed twice a year before the start of the spring and fall semesters.


“[Transfer students] will have to be performing at a very high standard to be able to come into the district,” O’Connor said. “So we’re not just allowing any student into the district, we’re looking at students that can continue the tradition of excellence at Sharyland.”


The open-enrollment plan was approved by the board 6-1 with Trustee Ricky Longoria as the sole dissenting vote.


After the meeting, Longoria questioned whether charging a high price for tuition would really attract students to the district.


“Other districts that have open enrollment don’t charge, we’d be the only district in south Texas doing this,” Longoria said. “The fee is a barrier, I imagine there’s going to be a lot of families unable to pay this tuition.”


Longoria also wondered if charging a tuition fee was necessary as the district receives around $6,500 from the state per student to educate them, he said.


“That’s already a big source of revenue with just the open enrollment and without charging students,” Longoria said.


O’Connor did not explain why the school district was charging tuition but said the school board may waive a student’s tuition based on financial hardship or have the student’s parents agree to a tuition payment agreement.


“The goal is to get back to a balanced number where we’re not losing growth. I’m not as interested in growing through this policy but I definitely want to stop any loss of enrollment from happening in the future,” O’Connor said. “I think helping increase student enrollment in the elementary levels where we see lower numbers will prevent us from seeing a disparity gap at the high schools.”