New Trier reconsiders student fee structure
The New Trier High School Board is considering an update to the district’s student fee policy, re-considering how families are charged, or not charged, for courses, athletics and extracurricular activities. | File photo
Updated: December 14, 2012 9:15AM
NORTHFIELD — The New Trier High School Board is considering an update to the district’s student fee policy, possibly spreading the costs throughout the district.
A special meeting was called to give the district’s finance committee some guidance on how students and families are charged, or not charged, for courses, athletics and extracurricular activities.
New Trier students do not pay to participate in sports or a performing arts program, but students in some electives – most notably glass arts – pay fees to enroll in the courses, mostly for supplies.
One option tossed around at the Dec. 3 meeting is for the district to absorb the entire amount, charging no fees. Another is to divide the total cost among all of the district’s families and/or charge students based on participation.
“This (current) fee structure has evolved over time and I think there are some inconsistencies we can get our arms around pretty easily,” board member Carol Ducommun said.
The board appeared to agree to stop charging students fees for elective courses and try to make up the funds in other ways while remaining “revenue neutral.” Rather than charge students a “pay to play” fee, the board appeared to favor spreading the costs throughout the district.
Board President Alan Dolinko said he favored a “gatekeeper charge” in which costs are spread to every student in the school, while encouraging them to take part in the activities they pay for.
“Yes, you’re paying a fee, and the kids who do more will, in theory, get more value,” Dolinko said. “We want to drive kids toward participation. I would get rid of all supply fees for classes. That would shorten a lot of the fee bills.”
Dolinko said he previously favored charging students science and art supply fees, but recently changed his mind. He said the district has a problem when parents feel “nickel and dimed” by their fee bills, and he hopes spreading the cost will benefit all.
“I want to be equitable, be fair and not charge an amount that becomes a real burden,” Dolinko said. “This is a public high school, not a college.”
Discussions about student fees evolved over the past several months after the administration was directed to look at rising textbook costs. Superintendent Linda Yonke said parents pay an average of $316 for books and $45 for supplies per student in the campus bookstore.
Dolikno said the textbook issue was “dormant” and the special meeting was intended to provide direction for the finance committee to study the student fee subject. Discussions are expected to continue.