By Dedra Cordle
South-Western City School officials will not make any major changes to the existing student fee schedule.
At its meeting on Feb. 8, the board of education approved a recommendation from the district’s superintendent which requested they keep in place a 50 percent reduction in the student fee schedule established at the start of the 2020-2021 calendar year.
According to Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise, his request to renew the recommendation for a second consecutive year had little to do with a belief that there would be continued disruptions to in-person instruction and the loss of competitive activities due to the ongoing pandemic.
“We do think we can get back to a much more normal circumstance with the ability to deliver (traditional in-person instruction and extracurricular activities),” he said, “but there is still uncertainty with the pandemic and we continue to see families in parts of our community struggle financially with the closures and other issues associated with the pandemic.”
The members of the board agreed with his assessment.
“Dr. Wise summed it up greatly when he said people are still struggling – even next year when we’re back to whatever version of normal we can return to,” said Anthony Caldwell. “People are still going to be struggling and it shows that we want to help families in this community make that transition into the next school year at a reduced rate for all the fees that families have to pay.”
During the vote on the reduced student fee schedule, however, there was some disagreement.
Board member David Donofrio said that while he will vote in favor of the portion which sets the reduced fees for academics, he could not vote in favor of the portion which sets the reduced fees for athletics. Instead, he called for that portion to be nixed altogether.
“Pay-to-participate fees are an unnecessary burden on students and families in low-income areas,” he said. “Our district has enjoyed great fiscal strength for well over a decade now and additional sources of income will more than offset the (roughly) $500,000 generated by the participation fees.”
He went on to state that the pay-to-participate fees, which were established as part of a board promise to the community when seeking a 7.4-mill continuous operating levy in 2009, were a “relic” of a different and “difficult fiscal time of the past” and should be eliminated.
While a majority of the board did not vote in favor of the call to outright eliminate the pay-to-participate portion, they did vote to approve the superintendent’s student fee schedule reduction recommendation.
Under the modified fee schedule, the instructional fee, or consumable fee, will be set at $10 rather than the typical $20. Other fee reductions for courses include the arts, the sciences, and several career technical elective programs. Art courses offering one credit lab courses will be $17.50 plus the cost of personal items and projects, half-credit courses are set at $10 plus the cost of personal items and projects, and science fees are $5. Those taking family and consumer science courses, such as principles of food, culinary fundamentals and textiles and interior design will be charged $10.
Those taking or seeking courses in the career-technical program will be sent letters listing lab fees and uniform costs to the student and families pending acceptance into the South-Western Career Academy.
Students involved in extracurricular activities will continue to have the typical fee prices reduced. Families with children who participate at the middle school level will be asked to pay $35.75 per student, per sport; families with children who participate at the high school level will be asked to pay $75 per student, per sport. Fees for marching band participation is $50; club participation is $5; and the family cap is set at $250.
Board president Cathy Johnson said that families who are struggling to pay the fees, even at the reduced rate, can seek scholarships from Success Beyond the Classroom. She recommended parents ask their child’s school for more information on the scholarship opportunities.