It took a nationally ranked Hays High water ski student for the Hays CISD board to make changes to its excused absence policy.
The Hays CISD school board passed a resolution last month stating that students participating in non-UIL events will no longer receive an unexcused absence on their record and instead will have the absence excused as if the student were participating in a UIL event.
According to school board member Merideth Keller, speaking on her own behalf, the creation of the resolution came about in response to the needs of one Hays CISD student in particular, 17-year-old Rebel senior Emma Morgan, a nationally qualifying water skier.
Keller said the resolution would go into effect immediately but she was unsure of the administrative details involved in the creation of a water ski class except that the school board’s resolution detailed that a faculty member oversee the elective course.
“The best thing for us is the opportunity to say ‘yes’,” Keller said.
Morgan’s dad, Matt Morgan, said Emma has been water skiing since she was eight years old. However, the family only ran into issues with her attendance at school when she got older and started qualifying for bigger events.
Morgan said his daughter, a senior at Hays High, represented the U.S. on the Canadian-American (CANAM) team in October of 2016 and just recently competed in the biggest water ski competition in the world, the Moomba Masters in Melbourne, Australia.
Morgan said that Emma trains about 15-20 hours a week, and she remains dedicated to her studies and is currently number 10 in her class with plans to go to Rollins College in Florida after graduation on a water skiing scholarship.
Morgan also said that a driving reason for the resolution, and thus the creation of the new water ski class at Hays CISD, was to “lay the groundwork” for her younger brother and sister, both of whom water ski and have future aspirations of competing.
“I would certainly hope that Hays CISD and school districts all over the nation can work with parents and faculty in the future to help these extraordinary kids meet their goals,” Morgan said.
Morgan really gives the credit to the Hays CISD school board, school board member Keller and the Director of Student Services for Hays CISD Neil Bonavita for the determination to get the resolution passed.
“It was really all their hard work and dedication that made this possible,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, this can be used as a template going forward for us and other school districts and parents interested in helping kids compete in sporting events at the national level.”