The Collin County school district of Lovejoy has only 3,400 students, but it has some pretty big ideas.
Next month, it’s going to start acting like a private school – at least for kids who live outside the district. Those who want to attend its schools will have to start paying tuition.
A few weeks are left before the first day of class, and staff at Lovejoy ISD’s newest middle school is already busy unpacking boxes.
Superintendent Ted Moore says he is excited about opening a new campus, but not about the price tag. Willow Springs Middle School will cost $2 million a year to run.
That’s why the district plans to charge elementary students who live outside its boundaries $8,000 a year. Older kids will pay $10,000.
Throw in the state’s per pupil amount, and Lovejoy is looking at collecting $16,ooo to $18,000 per transfer student.
Moore’s trying to make up the $2.5 million it lost to state budget cuts two years ago.
“The most we would generate would be about a million in a half, so we’ve made cuts and we’ve had enrollment growth, and so the combination of those with tuition could get us back even,” he says.
So far, Lovejoy’s received 10 applications. One of them is from Tiffany and Hunter Sexauer, who’s 5-year-old daughter, Anicah, heads to kindergarten this fall.
A few years back, the couple moved to the small town of Lucas for the large-acre lots and rural feel. Roads there are winding and it’s not uncommon to see farm animals. A creek runs behind their home.
What really attracted them? The Lovejoy school district. But there was just one problem.
“Unfortunately they told us that since we paid more in McKinney taxes and our house sits in Mckinney ISD, they wouldn’t let us come to Lovejoy just because of the rules,” said Tiffany Sexauer.
Now that the rules have changed, she says they’re more than willing to pay the price.
“Lovejoy is exemplary,” she says. “The teachers have to go through a rigorous hiring program, so the teachers at Lovejoy are amazing.”
She also points out the number of students enrolled in AP classes.
“Just like any parent, my goal for my little girl is to be prepared for college,” she says. “I want her to be able to take care of herself in the future. I want her to be excited about learning and I want her to go far.”
Not everyone’s crazy about Lovejoy’s plan. In Gary Moore’s neighborhood, some of the kids go to Lovejoy. Others to McKinney. A few years back, he tried to get them all into Lovejoy, but the school board said no. Now his kids are in private school.
“I think it’s ridiculous the $8-10,000 that they’re saying, basically what I’m paying to send them to McKinney Christian Academy, and I wouldn’t uproot them to send them to Lovejoy.”
On top of the tuition, families from outside the Lovejoy district will have to re-apply every year. No more than 15 students per grade level will be admitted.
And students who get in must have a nearly perfect attendance record. They also have to ace their standardized tests.
Superintendent Ted Moore said the transfer tuition plan won’t last forever.
“Because you build your facilities based on what your demographer tells you how many kids you’re going to have, and so for us, that’s going to be true,” Moore says. “Really, over the next 8 plus years, we’ll have to get out of the transfer business because our residents will be filling all of the seats.”
Lovejoy isn’t the only district trying out this idea. To the east, Rockwall’s already charging transfers five thousand dollars a year. And farther west, Carroll isn’t charging at all, but it’ll still collect reimbursement money from the state.