Leander ISD will continue to offer off-campus physical education for dance students next school year after parents and student dancers expressed their concerns over the district’s decision to discontinue the program.

In November, the district announced updated off-campus PE guidelines that would have removed options for dance students.

What’s happening?

On March 5, district officials informed affected families it would not change off-campus PE options for the 2024-25 school year, which would have included removing the off-campus dance program, said Daniel Cernero, LISD assistant director of communications.

Off-campus PE allows middle and high school students to receive PE credit for participating in intensive or professional athletic programs offered by outside organizations, according to the district's website.

The district's recent decision comes after several students danced for the board of trustees during the public comment portion of a Feb. 15 meeting as a form of protest. Some dance students said they would be forced to choose between their education and dance career, and possibly leave the district.

The district initially planned to remove off-campus dance to align with similar programs offered by the other districts in the region and the state—a decision the district has since reconsidered, Cernero said.

“We were really just kind of zeroing in on the impact to the student experience, and we felt it best to revert back to how we were doing things before,” Cernero said. “We really do try to keep each and every student at the heart of our decisions.”

The backstory

LISD parent Erin Turnley told Community Impact the district's reversal came in response to a grievance she filed with the district in early January. Her freshman son uses his off-campus PE periods to dance at a studio in Austin where he spends around 20-25 hours a week, she said.

“Students who want to stay in the public schools [or] who don't want to do online or homeschool, it's really the only win-win that allows them to stay with their academic rigor,” Turnley said about the off-campus dance program.

Following the comments from dance students and parents, including Turnley, at the Feb. 15 meeting, Place 7 board member Paul Gauthier requested the board add an agenda item to vote on the off-campus PE changes, which was seconded by Place 5 board member Sade Fashokun.

On Feb. 29, the district responded to Turnley’s grievance stating it would no longer move forward with changes to off-campus PE offerings, which Turnley said also included changes to programs beyond dance.

As the board’s agenda item has since been withdrawn, Turnley said she feels the district should better inform the community about its updated response.