The School District of Rhinelander Board of Education took a step Monday toward ensuring financial considerations don't hinder students from fully participating in school life.
The board unanimously approved a recommendation from new director of business services Bob Thom to eliminate a number of fees assessed to students, including making admission to most home sporting events and other events free.
The operations and strategic planning committee unanimously approved the recommendations Sept. 9.
In introducing the proposal to the full board Monday evening, district superintendent Kelli Jacobi noted the district collected $93,044.04 in fees last year.
"For a school district that has the poverty that we do, and we all saw that in looking at the equity issues, we thought this would be a good time to start eliminating some of the student fees," Jacobi explained.
She added that this change will not apply to standard material and supply fees, athletic fees, driver's education fees, parking permits, lost lock fees and library fines.
It was also pointed out that each fee has to be created in the district's Infinite Campus system and then assigned to each student. There are currently 64 different fees assessed for items outside of athletics, driver's education, parking and fines, Jacobi said.
The fees that were proposed for elimination generated about $25,000 during the 2018-19 school year. With 43 percent of district students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, some students may have to not take part in something because their family could not afford the fee, Jacobi said.
"We encourage students to come to our events, so we wanted to get away from the activity passes, paying additional (money) to come," Jacobi said.
To gain entry into a sporting or other event, students will just have to show their student I.D., which all high school students have
"We'll work on a plan for the other kids, because we want to encourage them and don't want to put those barriers up for them," Jacobi said. "I think there will be a a lot of parents and students who will be very happy about this."
While students will be able to get into events in the auditorium and most sporting events, hockey will not be included. This is because the Rhinelander Ice Arena is not owned by the school district.
Individual budgets have always been adjusted to account for the revenue generated from the various fees, Jacobi added. Thus, this change will not have an adverse effect on building budgets, she noted.
"When students, generally parents, paid those fees, that money just went back into the general fund because the school budget had already been adjusted," Jacobi said. "One of the changes that is in this is students in band and chorus have been required to purchase their T-shirts. We're going to make them available without charge so we're sure that we're not eliminating this option for any student who would not be able to buy their own shirt. We have already made the plans so band and chorus are not losing any of their budgeted money, because that was never our intent."
Jacobi said the move would be retroactive to the start of the school year.
"The high school level has not sent out their fees yet," she said. "They normally wait until after the first couple weeks of school so they know if kids are going to stay in classes they signed up for. We will move quickly on that. For fees that have already been paid, because some may have, we will give the option of do we put the money that you have paid into your student lunch account, do you want it returned to you, so they have a voice in that."
The measure was approved on a unanimous voice vote.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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