School fee lawsuit could cost $25,000

With a $1.2-million budget shortfall on the horizon for next year, teachers are hoping the school board keeps needed cuts out of classrooms.  - Western News file image
With a $1.2-million budget shortfall on the horizon for next year, teachers are hoping the school board keeps needed cuts out of classrooms.
— image credit: Western News file image

Up to $25,000 could be reimbursed to local students who were incorrectly charged for summer school courses nearly a decade ago.

The Okanagan Skaha School District and 25 others around B.C. are named in a class action lawsuit approved in B.C. Supreme Court in October that successfully argued for the return of those fees.

Finance director Maureen Maywood said Okanagan Skaha has to pay back what it charged for summer school in 2005 and 2006 only.

“Once we found out that we weren’t supposed to be, we quit charging, but in the meantime there was an obligation that came forward,” Maywood told a school board committee this week.

“We did set that up as a liability when we were named in the suit a couple years ago, so the money is there for us,” she added.

Maywood is uncertain how many claimants might step forward locally, but estimated the district’s total liability at a maximum of $25,000. She also noted the B.C. government has set aside $4 million to help districts pay out claims.

“Depending on the claims that come in, it may cover the whole thing,” Maywood said.

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said the School Act was in flux during the period covered by the lawsuit, resulting in some confusion about course fees.

“It was during that change where schools were still charging for summer school,” Hyer said. “It was just that as the legislation changed, things had to get caught up with how the legislation was interpreted.”

Anyone interested in making a claim can contact the school board office for more information.

The class action lawsuit is being handled by Vancouver firm Poyner Baxter, which did not return a call for comment.

According to a press release on the firm’s website, the legal battle began in 2009 with one parent suing the Vancouver School Board for $274. It was successful and another plaintiff stepped forward to sue the 26 other school districts.

The firm estimates the total amount owed across B.C. is in the range of $10 million.



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