Groesbeck and Marlin school districts are butting heads over whether Groesbeck can continue to bus in transfer students from Marlin.

Marlin Independent School District officials have said they will no longer allow other districts to bus transfer students out. A ruling by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in October prohibits the practice without a formal agreement between both districts, Marlin officials have said. They have no plans to allow other districts to operate regular bus service in the district.

“The transporting of Groesbeck students that live in Marlin for the past five years has not been an issue, and it is unknown why this has become an issue for Marlin ISD administration,” Groesbeck ISD Superintendent James Cowley wrote in a statement.

The transfer students tend to perform well on state exams, and more students returning to Marlin would mean more state money and possibly better performance, Marlin ISD Superintendent Michael Seabolt said.

Marlin has been on the state’s improvement-required list for academic performance for the past six years, longer than any other district, and it is fighting to avoid closure by the state. Groesbeck was rated as improvement-required last year for the first time.

“Marlin is losing a lot of students to other districts. That’s the parent’s right, and I certainly respect that,” Seabolt said. “It is important to Marlin ISD to keep Marlin as intact as possible as a community, so we would certainly welcome all students back if the parents will choose to give Marlin ISD the privilege.”

The AG’s ruling, which was not directly related to Marlin or Groesbeck, does not affect students’ ability to transfer, just districts’ ability to offer students transportation outside district boundaries.

“Since many students living in Marlin are economically disadvantaged and would be unable to personally transport their child to a Groesbeck ISD campus, the decision was made five years ago to provide a safe and secure place for students meet,” Cowley said.

Groesbeck has provided one bus for elementary and middle school students and another for high school students, Cowley said. The number of students who take the buses varies day to day, he said.

Marlin sent a proposed agreement to Groesbeck, and Groesbeck responded with a different proposal that would allow the busing to continue. Groesbeck’s attorneys are waiting for a response, Cowley said.

“Groesbeck is trying to convince Marlin to allow buses to continue picking up students inside Marlin ISD,” Seabolt said. “It was made clear last Friday afternoon (Feb. 16) that there are no circumstances (in which) that will happen.”

About 300 students who live in Marlin ISD attend surrounding districts, including Groesbeck, Chilton ISD and at least two others, Marlin Assistant Superintendent Remy Godfrey said after the AG ruling in October. The other districts are not pushing back on Marlin’s decision not to allow busing for transfers, Seabolt said during a recent school board meeting.

Marlin had 867 students last school year, down from 1,078 students in the 2011-12 school year. About 35 students returned to Marlin this year, Godfrey said in October.

He does not expect all 300 transfer students to return because of the district’s limits on busing, but any student who returns would help the district, Seabolt said. Any decisions on the issue will not affect students until next school year, he said.

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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