HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Starting Thursday, all Hays CISD students who walk to school will now be the last to leave.

In a newsletter to parents the district wrote, “these students will remain in the building in the air conditioning until their release. We will ensure their safety until the majority of vehicles are out of the area.”

It’s part of a new district policy Hays CISD said it’s been working on over the summer to address “community concerns regarding school safety, resident/neighborhood complaints as well as complaints regarding roadway congestion.”

What is the new schedule?

The district said it worked with city and county officials, law enforcement, Hays CISD transportation and others to develop the plan.

The order of dismissal:

  1. Buses
  2. Parent pick-up
  3. Student drivers
  4. Student walkers

The district said with this new system, it anticipates elementary students who walk to school will be released between 3:20 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.

“Safety is the driving factor there but then also efficiency because we want to get everyone in and out of there as fast as possible while being safe,” Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said.

The district said another issue that prompted this change was some parents falsely labeling their kids as walkers to avoid waiting in the pick-up line.

“We had received a number of complaints where parents would pull into just some random houses driveway next to the school to wait for their kid who was supposed to be a walker to walk over to their car,” Savoy said. “You’ve got kids sort of darting all over the place and mixing in with the traffic. That has catastrophe written all over it.”

Savoy said another factor in this decision was the death of a student at San Marcos CISD last year.

In the newsletter, the district wrote, “Hays CISD is committed to making sure that the tragedy that occurred in a parking lot at one of our sister districts, does not occur here.”

What are parents saying?

This dismissal change has left Hays CISD parent Jennifer Dworaczyk frustrated.

“Parents are immediately outraged, and rightfully so I feel like,” Dworaczyk said.

She has two students at Ralph Pfluger Elementary School in Buda. Her kids are labeled as walkers. Dworaczyk said not knowing the exact time they’ll be released is a concern for her.

“Ambiguous release time, where it’s like, well, we don’t really know when they’re gonna get released,” she said. “I don’t know if something’s wrong and if my kid should have made it home by now.”

With less cars on the road, Dworaczyk is also concerned for their safety walking home.

“Nobody in their right mind would snatch a kid off the road with five million cars and five million eyes on them,” Dworaczyk said. “Less cars, less witnesses, they’re able to get away faster, because there’s no traffic.”

Dworaczyk said she thinks it’s safer to have walkers leave before parent pick-up because those cars are stopped.

“By the time school gets out, there’s a huge line of cars. Nobody’s moving,” she said. “I don’t understand how it’s safer to do it with less cars on the road, where those cars are able to go faster and go the speed limit because there’s less cars rather than doing it when nobody can move.”

Dworaczyk said she also wonders if there’s enough staff to watch the walkers in the schools.

“When you have hundreds of kids just hanging out in the hallway for 45 minutes, they’re not going to just sit there, they’re going to be getting into trouble. They’re going to be running around there,” she said.

Ultimately, it’s a decision Dworaczyk said should be at the discretion of individual schools and not a district-wide rule.

“Leave it up to the principals who are familiar with their students, their parents, their layout,” she said.