COVID-19 has made it difficult for some Utah County parents to pay for the school fees that are required for students to attend basic classes like gym, art and drama — particularly when families have multiple children in public schools simultaneously.
The Alpine District School Board has recently been fielding comments about the challenges parents are facing with many still struggling after the coronavirus upended a lot of household budgets. Fees for extracurricular activities like clubs, camps, overnight field trips and sports or cheerleading can total thousands of dollars yearly per student.
“The purpose of this public comment period was to listen to our public as we’ve received many comments on school fees,” said assistant superintendent Rob Smith.
The school board is required to provide two opportunities for public hearings before making any decisions. The board meeting on March 9 was the first opportunity for people to share their opinion; the second opportunity will happen on Tuesday, March 23.
“I would note that the school fees in Utah is not a new thing. This has been something that has taken place for many, many years and is an important part of the financing of our schools and school programs,” Smith said.
Several parents submitted their comments online in regard to school fees.
“If my child signs up for an elective where a fee is required to participate, I fully understand. But when the school creates fees to fund (classes and activities) that are required and for which they don’t have enough in the budget, this is taxation without representation. This I am strongly against,” wrote Lehi resident Ethan Alit.
“School fees for students who attend entirely online for 2021 should be waived for the year and reimbursed if they paid them,” wrote Heather Morrison of Lehi. “Since these students are not using textbooks, labs or the school facilities, they should not have to pay for fees they can’t utilize.”
Morrison said that even if a family is not at the poverty level, “that doesn’t mean they can afford to pay $200+ per student per school year, especially when they are living paycheck to paycheck.”
These are just a few of the comments that were submitted to the school board, but all of the sentiments that were read in the meeting expressed dissatisfaction with how school fees have been handled.
Members of the school board empathized with the comments that were sent in, offering options for payment plans and fee waivers.
“I will have three 9th to 12th grade students again this fall myself, and so I absolutely feel everyone’s pain in paying school fees,” said board member Amber Bonner. Bonner said it’s possible to check in advance for the fees of the coming school year.
“I just am so appreciative of all of the many options that we’re trying to provide for parents to make this a better situation for them,” Bonner said.