Next school year, about 300 students will no longer be able to transfer out of Marlin Independent School District unless they come up with their own transportation to school, Marlin officials said during a school board meeting Tuesday night.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled Oct. 3 that school districts cannot operate buses outside their geographical boundaries on a regular basis unless they have a formal agreement with other districts to do so.

About 300 students who live in Marlin ISD attend surrounding districts, including Groesbeck ISD, Chilton ISD and at least two others, Marlin assistant superintendent Remy Godfrey said.

“For next school year, we are looking at not entering into any interlocal agreement, which will hopefully bring some children back,” Godfrey said.

The district had 867 students last school year, but its six consecutive years of failing state accountability standards have contributed to a steady decline in enrollment during that time. It had 1,078 students in the 2011-2012 school year.

But Godfrey said about 35 students returned to Marlin this year, and if more students return next year, it will help the struggling district receive more state funding.

The attorney general ruling stems from a case involving Jonesboro ISD, which was busing transfer students who lived in Gatesville ISD on a daily basis with no plans to enter an agreement, Godfrey said.

“This is an example of how we don’t often look at what the law really says,” Marlin board member Rose Cameron said. “The law has said ‘shall not,’ and we took that to mean, ‘Well, maybe.’ The attorney general said no, shall means shall.”

Godfrey said the district wants to give transfer students’ parents enough time to figure out what they want to do, invite them to come visit Marlin ISD schools and be part of the discussion as school officials sort out the details.

The district is still coming up with a detailed plan to handle the change and will provide more information to parents and surrounding school districts in about two weeks, Godfrey 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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