Sharyland ISD now has up to 1,940 students attending on-campus classes, bringing the total district percentage to 19.8 percent — the highest in-person attendance the district has seen all year. If SISD can maintain these numbers, the district will qualify for the Texas Education Agency’s spring hold harmless, meaning they will not be penalized financially for their declining enrollment.
In March, Governor Greg Abbott and the TEA announced they will extend the state’s hold harmless agreement to Texas school systems for the rest of the 2020-2021 academic year. Under the agreement, funding is available to districts that have had a decline in enrollment and attendance because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they must maintain or increase current levels of on-campus attendance.
“Providing a hold harmless for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year is a crucial part of our state’s commitment to supporting our school systems and teachers and getting more students back in the classroom,” Abbott said in a press release at the time the announcement was made.
Sharyland, along with other school systems across the state, has seen a decrease in student numbers. Withdrawals from Texas public schools in favor of homeschooling had a 228 percent increase from 1997-2019, according to a study from the Texas Homeschooling Coalition. Although data is not available for the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years, it is expected the withdrawal percentage increased because of the pandemic. According to a data map from THSC, Hidalgo County ranked seventh in the state for withdrawals in the 2018-19 school year.
In December 2020, Sharyland’s board of trustees discussed the possibility of becoming an open enrollment district to combat the reduction in registration, however, no decision was made. The district projected a loss of revenue of more than $2 million in the 2021-2022 school year because of the decline.
Ordinarily, districts receive funding from the state based on student enrollment and daily on-campus attendance. The basic allotment, or funding, per student is $6,100. But this year, TEA has provided full funding based on attendance projections that were made before the pandemic, regardless of whether the students are virtual or on campus. The hold harmless was put in place and extended in an effort to increase enrollment and retain teachers for the 2020-21 school year. This is the third consecutive semester Texas districts have been held harmless.
At the April 19 SISD board of trustees workshop, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pamela Montalvo and Database Administrator DeVaughn Resczenski presented the district’s attendance standing concerning the spring hold harmless.
“It’s looking good,” Resczenski said. “As long as we can maintain the numbers…and keep the students coming in-person to attend, we stand a very good chance of making the percentages for the spring hold harmless.”