WFISD Trustees Discuss Possibility of Homeschoolers Participating in UIL Activities

The Wichita Falls ISD School Board plans to vote Monday on whether to allow home-schooled students to participate in district UIL activities.

Some administrators see it as a possible way to help bolster declining enrollment in the district.

The new law co-authored by State Rep. James Frank of Wichita Falls went into effect Sept. 21, allowing homeschoolers — but not private school students — to participate in UIL programs if a district so chooses. approved.

Last year, WFISD administrators voted 4 to 3 against allowing home-schooled children to participate in activities such as football, softball, soccer, volleyball, band and activities. related to education for the 2020-2021 school year.

The same three directors who backed the idea in that July 19, 2021 vote came out in favor of it at a meeting on Tuesday.

Place 1 Administrator Bob Payton agreed this could open the door for new families to come to the district, a possibility raised by Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths during his presentation.

“Our community is not a fast-growing community,” Payton said. “I think there are easily 1,500 to 2,000 K-12 students in our community.”

After:Homeschoolers excluded from UIL activities in the WFISD for the 2020-2021 school year

Place 3 administrator Mark Lukert said, “We’re not a fast-growing district, but we’re growing fast with homeschooling and private schooling and all that.”

Iowa Park's Raylea Parsons catches and scores in second against Liberty during the UIL 4A State Softball Semifinals in Austin on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

Katherine McGregor and Lukert, deputy trustees, said they support allowing homeschool attendance for the 2022-23 school year.

Griffiths told the school board that an unenrolled student participating in activities must attend the school that is in the student’s attendance area.

He said the participation of home-schooled students will not affect UIL’s alignment until 2024.

Last school year, 21 of 1,029 school systems in Texas approved college attendance for students from home, as permitted by Bill 547 or the “Tim Tebow Law,” Griffiths told administrators. This represents about 2% of the districts in Texas.

Griffiths said the WFISD has cut travel and equipment budgets for athletics and fine arts for 2022-23, and there are unknowns to consider, such as possible increased costs for uniform and personnel, depending on participation.

“We don’t know. There could be three children. There could be 100 children,” he said.

The Wichita Falls ISD School Board has a special meeting on July 12, 2022.

One concern is that allowing participation in UIL activities for unregistered students could hasten the drop in enrollment, Griffiths said.

WFISD has been grappling with an estimated drop in enrollment of 800 students since the pandemic began in March 2020, a drop that has resulted in reduced state funding for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years.

Griffiths said WFISD had 234 homeschooled high school students from August 2021 to April 2022.

The Wichita Falls High School football team hoists their trophy in celebration against Arlington Heights on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Mineral Wells.

Parents could move students to a surrounding school in response if a stay-at-home student takes the place of a child enrolled in a team or group, he said.

Plus, there’s the inequity of no-pass and no-play rules for students in the district while home-schoolers need only have a parent grade indicating they’re passing, Griffiths said. during his presentation.

But homeschoolers might decide to enroll in WFISD after participating in UIL activities, and enabling their participation would help homeschool families feel connected to the district while appealing to community interest. community, he said.

Griffiths said administrators have the option to vote on whether to allow students to attend at home or maintain the status quo of not allowing their attendance.

Last year, school board president Mike Rucker, Place 4 trustee Dale Harvey and Place 5 trustee Tom Bursey voted against it.

At the time, Yeager said she wasn’t saying no forever, but there were many unknowns at the time.

After:Some stay-at-home school children wary of Bill Tebow

Tom Bursey, Wichita Falls ISD Administrator

Sara H. Byrd