On Feb. 20, Montgomery ISD trustees asked for an exemption from state-mandated facility safety requirements, which district leaders say they hope to comply with by the fall.

The full story

Trustees unanimously approved a motion to pursue a good cause exemption from portions of new facility safety requirements from House Bill 3 after discussing the mandate in closed session.

“The district is fully committed to meeting all safety requirements, but due to supply chain obstacles and contractor timelines, the good cause exception provides some additional time to meet those requirements,” MISD Superintendent Mark Ruffin said in a Feb. 23 email.

HB 3 became law Sept. 1 and was created during the 88th legislative session, according to the Texas Legislature’s website. The bill granted Texas school districts $15,000 per campus and $10 per student for school safety initiatives, as previously reported by Community Impact.

HB 3 also requires at least one armed security officer—such as a law enforcement officer, school marshal or teacher licensed to carry a handgun—on school campuses during regular school hours. MISD already meets HB 3’s requirements of at least one armed security officer at all district campuses, Ruffin said.

Also on the agenda

Unpaid lunch balances for MISD students total $16,000 so far this year, which is an increase from previous years, said Pam Mallory, MISD’s director of child nutrition, during a Feb. 20 presentation to the district’s board of trustees. The department began the 2023-24 school year in August with no unpaid balances, she said.

Meanwhile, community donations to the district’s child nutrition department are down, Mallory said. The climbing lunch balance and lack of donations are both likely due to inflation, Mallory said in a Feb. 22 email.

“Food and supply costs have risen, resulting in an increase in what we must charge for student meals,” Mallory said via email.

About 28% of MISD students qualified for free and reduced lunches in the 2022-23 school year, compared to about 50% of students statewide, according to data posted on the Texas Education Agency’s website.

Meeting highlights

Also at the Feb. 20 meeting:
  • Trustees unanimously approved a motion to accept chaplains as volunteers, in compliance with Senate Bill 763, which was passed by the Texas Legislature in June. The district already offers volunteer opportunities to chaplains, but the bill requires a vote from Texas school boards to employ chaplains or accept them as volunteers by March 1, said Amy Busby, assistant superintendent of student services and innovation.
  • Chief Operations Officer Kris Lynn announced 11 of 15 school buses requested by the district have been received. MISD leaders initially ordered the buses in May 2022, and they will place another order for new school buses soon, Lynn said. Bus purchases are funded by MISD's $326.9 million bond package, approved by voters in May 2022.
Hannah Norton contributed to this report.