Annual $3,000 cap for up to four middle school activities, high school cap $7,500
The Alpine School District has adopted a new, state-required fee policy, despite objections and concerns raised by the district’s governing board.
“The whole bill, it is an unfunded mandate,” said Ada Wilson, a member of the Alpine School District Board of Education, during a board meeting on March 10. “It is asking us to absorb yet another cost, and I think that needs to be acknowledged.”
The board voted 6-1 to approve the new policy, with Julie King voting against it.
Policy 5146 is a complete rewrite of the district’s previous fee policy. Under the new policy, the district must set maximum amounts that schools can charge each student for up to four activities, create and share a plan for every fee that it charges and how the funds will be spent, and bans the practice of spreading the cost of covering fee waiver students to non-fee waiver families. Districts will be unable to charge textbook fees starting in the 2022-23 school year.
The district currently budgets about $100,000 a year to cover the cost of fee waivers. It anticipates the new policy will cost about $1 million in fee waiver costs.
Sarah Beeson, a member of the board, said that there are multiple interpretations of the new school fee law and that it was sometimes difficult to differentiate between various interpretations.
“We feel very confident we have done our due diligence to make sure that it is up to par and stands with the state board of education,” Beeson said during the meeting.
The board itself disagreed with different interpretations of the code, with King proposing a substitute motion that would have eliminated a part of the district policy that stated Alpine School District would create an elementary fee schedule in addition to its middle and high school fee schedules. King argued that adding elementary school fees would violate state law. Others argued that the district can still charge fees for elementary school activities if the activity happens outside of school hours, is voluntary and doesn’t impact a grade.
The amendment failed 1-6, with only King voting in favor of it.
Each academic year’s fee schedule includes a maximum amount that can be charged per activity, with prices varying based on the activity.
The elementary fee schedule for the 202-21 academic year places a maximum of $180 that can be charged for a before or after school program, up to $180 for Clear Creek’s three-day summer camp and up to $20 for gifted and talented testing.
The junior high and middle school fee schedule includes items such as a maximum fee of $15 per dance or other events, $400 for in-state, overnight trips, $40 for an extra-curricular club and up to $100 for field trips. The policy places a cap of $3,000 annually that a student could be charged for up to four activities.
The high school fee schedule for the upcoming academic year includes items such as a maximum of $3,000 for an overnight trip or competition, $100 for dances or other events, $500 for co-curricular uniforms, clothing or supplies, $500 for camps, up to $100 for an extracurricular participation fee and a maximum of $2,000 for uniforms, clothing or supplies for an extracurricular activity. The district has placed a cap of $7,500 annually that a high school student could be charged for up to four activities.
Board members voiced concerns about the new, required fee policy last month, which some board members said would lead to adverse consequences for all students as fee waivers are extended to extracurricular activities and that it could create inequalities between fee waiver and non-fee waiver students.
Mark Clement, a member of the Alpine School District Board of Education, said he wanted to preserve programs and find ways to give students opportunities. He said during the meeting that he’s aware that some members of the public feel that all of education should be free and that there shouldn’t be school fees.
“But I don’t want to lose good opportunities these athletes have, and the marching bands, and the choirs, and I feel like we as a board need to push back a little and preserve these great opportunities that I think for many students are more important than even the academics they learn during their education experiences,” he said during the March 10 meeting.
Beeson made similar comments, noting that she worries about the social and emotional health of the district’s students and how tightly connected it is to extracurricular activities.
“If we were to let them go, that would be pulling the rug out of something that they’re standing on that gives them comfort and solace in their communities,” she said.