School board nixes plan to increase student fees

Trustees don't like the idea of some schools being able to charge more and putting extra financial pressure on parents

Allowing some elementary schools to double student fees would unfairly single out those that can’t afford to, a school trustee fears.

“To have different schools with different fee structures seems very peculiar to me,” Linda Beaven told colleagues at this week’s Okanagan Skaha School District board meeting.

“It seems like kind of a stigma that at this school you only pay $10, but we’re a rich school and we can afford $20. That doesn’t sit well with me.”

Trustees were asked to approve doubling to $20 the per-student fee that elementary schools can charge parents.

A request letter signed by the district’s elementary administration team explained the increase would help cover the costs associated with planners, visiting performances, guest presenters and coaches.

The extra cash would “help administrators plan and prepare for upcoming costs to guarantee some level of sustainability within our schools,” said the letter, which added that $20 was deemed “an acceptable request as it fulfills some of the needs stated above and does not place a significant financial stress on parents.”

“Families who cannot afford this fee will have it waived,” the letter concluded.

Julie Read, president of the Uplands Elementary School parent advisory committee, said in an interview her group was told about the proposed increase and had concerns about how it would affect larger families

“If there are multiple students within the same school, having to have them pay that amount and maybe not being able to afford it, that was the main issue,” said Read.

Trustee Shelley Clarke said the fee would be too much for some parents who already shell out for other back-to-school items.

“At the beginning of the new school year, you’re paying for new shoes for kids, you’re paying for their school supplies, and all these other things. And then to pile this on top of that it just gets so overwhelming at times, I think, for some parents,” said Clarke.

“I just feel like it might be a little much.”

Trustee Ginny Manning said parents to whom she spoke weren’t as concerned with giving schools an extra $10 as they were about giving to public schools in general.

“There were the comments around, ‘I pay my taxes. I shouldn’t have to subsidize education,’” Manning said.

“Some raised the concern that public education should be at no cost, to which I explained to them that basic education is at no cost, but these are all for the extra things that everyone likes and enjoys.”

The board unanimously rejected the fee request and agreed to leave the cost for elementary students at $10.

Fees for students in middle schools and high schools in the district also remain unchanged and range from $35 to $50.