Fort Bend County Commissioners Court recommended during a regular meeting Feb. 12 moving forward with pursuing an interlocal agreement with Fort Bend ISD that would keep the remains of the 95 bodies discovered on the district’s construction site where they were found.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken DeMerchant noted the court would like to see a memorial constructed and maintained by the county at the site to honor and remember those victimized by the convict leasing labor system, in which prisoners were leased to plantation owners.
The motion was supported by applause from audience members in the court room.
FBISD board president Jason Burdine sent Community Impact Newspaper the following statement regarding the possibility of an interlocal agreement between the two entities:
“Fort Bend ISD applauds the action taken today by the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court authorizing the county attorney to negotiate an interlocal agreement with the district. We are optimistic that an agreement will lead to the preservation of the historic cemetery, while allowing Fort Bend ISD to provide our students with opportunities for career exploration and development at the James Reese Career and Technical Center. I would like to thank the Commissioners Court for recognizing that the perpetual care of a cemetery is beyond the district’s expertise and is not legally permissible. This action will allow us to remain focused on our mission to educate children. Fort Bend ISD remains committed to educating future generations about this forgotten piece of history, and the oppressive and state-sanctioned convict leasing program.”
FBISD is in the process of building the James Reese Career and Technical Education Center on the site and is accepting applications for students who will start school at the center this fall when the building is to be completed, according to district officials.
A case regarding the reburial of the remains discovered on the construction site in February 2018 is held up in court and costing the district millions in additional costs associated with the delays.
Several entities—including the Fort Bend County judge, the Fort Bend County Historical Commission, the Texas Historical Commission, the city of Sugar Land and Gov. Greg Abbott—were invited by the court in December to review and weigh in on the case.