Bastop ISD hopes shot at brand-new car will keep students in school

Bastrop ISD is using a bold, new strategy to get students to show up for class. District officials are hoping a shot at a brand-new car, could be a fun solution to the very real problem of chronic absenteeism.

"Imagine just going to school every day, just doing that, and getting a free car at the end of the year," said Sophia Altamirano Newman, a senior at Bastrop High School.

Sames Bastrop Ford and Bastrop ISD held a pep rally of sorts Monday night, to get students fired up about the prospect of winning a brand-new SUV.

"This is a way to motivate them to go to school, to class, get an education and also get a brand-new car," said Craig Murphy, general manager for Sames Bastrop Ford.

The key to this 2022 Ford EcoSport? A perfect—or at least near-perfect—attendance record.

"Every six weeks if a student has perfect attendance every single class period every single day they’ll get a voucher," said Bastrop Deputy Superintendent Kristi Lee. "The more you’re here and get perfect attendance, the more vouchers you will receive to go into the drawing at the end of the school year."

The new push comes amid a recent spike in absenteeism. Principals say it’s been especially bad post-COVID.

"We really faced some challenges of getting kids back on site," said Kasie Stagman, principal at Cedar Creek High School. "When we see kids not going to school, that can affect their credits, and affect them being able to graduate."

"Being in school every day is what really matters," said Lee.

Students we spoke to say they’re pretty confident an automotive incentive just might work.

"I think this is another plus for them to go to school and just do the work and show up," said Liliana Roberts, a junior at Cedar Creek High School.

The contest is open to students in grades 9 through 12. Some say it could even lead to a bit of a rivalry among the participating schools: Bastrop High School, Cedar Creek High School and Colorado River Collegiate Academy.

"I do think it’s going to get really serious," said Roberts.

But if you think a car contest means the end of "senior skip day"—think again.

"I feel like that’s a senior thing. It’s a tradition, and it’s one way to be with all your friends," said Roberts. "I don’t think people are going to skip senior skip day."

In addition to the free car from Sames Ford, Prosperity Bank is actually paying for the tax and title. The winner of the new SUV will be announced in May on graduation night.