CA: NSBORO re-addressing student fees based on complaint filed with Dept. of Ed

Algonquin Regional High School, Trottier Middle School and Northborough’s Melican Middle School all charge students’ families with “activity fees”. The fees have been mandatory, even if students don’t participate in any extra-curriculars.

According to the Community Advocate, the practice is now being reexamined. The topic was discussed during last week’s Regional School Committee meeting.

In August, Committee member Dan Kolenda questioned ARHS’ annual $50 activity fee. He wondered if it was time for fees to be incorporated into the school’s budget. Martineau pushed off the possibility, saying the time for that discussion would be budget-building season.

It is budget-building season now, but that’s apparently not the main reason the topic was revisited. Community Advocate writes:

The Northborough Southborough Regional School District received a parent initiated complaint through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) problem resolution system. Currently, Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) has a mandatory annual $50 student activity fee for all students. Per Massachusetts General Law, the fee cannot be charged to a student who does not participate in any extracurricular activities.

Superintendent Greg Martineau and Director of Finance Rebecca Pellegrino are in the process of remediating any issues so the District is in alignment with the law.

Martineau said that part of that process is to work on a multi-year plan “with some pathways in the future years of how we can reduce the fees we are charging Algonquin students.”

The proposed plan would be presented to Regional School Committee (RSC) members in April or May.

The community paper explained that the fees were introduced in 2012 and continued since. Meanwhile, this year student activity participation is down 25-30% this year. 

Committee member Paul Butka explained that the original justification included non-club activities:

He referenced freshmen orientation and graduation—activities that most students participate in and cost money to plan.

Going forward students will only be assessed fees when they sign up for an activity. But even that was questioned by some committee members. The CA covered:

“Why do we charge students to play a sport or to be in a band or to participate in a school program,” Committee member Dan Kolenda asked. “These are things we want to encourage our students to do, not discourage them by assessing… a fee.”

Committee member Karen Ares agreed that formulating a plan to phase out student fees is a “great step in the right direction.” She suggested more transparency on how fees, including class dues, are used to lessen parent confusion.

You can read the full article here. You can watch the discussion here courtesy of Southborough Access Media.

I looked back on earlier blog coverage (pre-dating my involvement) and discovered that Trottier’s activity fees were introduced in 2009. At that time they were $25. This year, the school charged families the standard $35 (even though no extra-curriclulars were offered in the fall and only a few were launched this winter.)

I also found mention of the 2012 Algonquin decision, which pointed readers to a Metrowest Daily News Article. The $50 fee was positioned by then-Superintendent Charles Gobron as temporary:

Gobron said the fee would bring in $50,000 in revenue for Algonquin, but he was adamant that the fee was being used as a brief respite during difficult financial times.

“We are not in favor of fees, but we’re at a place where we can’t continue doing wonderful things for our students without the funding,” Gobron said.

Committee members were tentative about including a mandatory fee for all students in the budget. They said that many clubs and activities already charge fees.

“I think some parents will be very confused with another fee,” said committee member Susan Sartori. “We should be careful to say that many clubs have fees above and beyond this general $50 fee.”

Committee members agreed to accept the budget as is, with the understanding that the activity fee may be removed at a later date.

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3 years ago

We were told those fees were temporary years ago when they were instituted and yet the school district with it’s astronomical budget continues to bilk the taxpayers of this money each year. How much will our taxes go up when Martineau builds them into the budget? The is a joke! All you ever hear from the schools is how they need more, need more, need more. How about like the rest of us, you do with what you have. When will these jokesters finally be held fiscally responsible? I say it is way past time!

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