West Ada School District trustees voted 4 to 1 Tuesday night to eliminate student class fees beginning next fall, a move that could cost the district an estimated $900,000.
The decision grew out of a lawsuit brought against the district by Russell Joki before he was elected a trustee last May. Fourth District Judge Richard Greenwood ruled in November that fees cannot be charged for classes that lead to a student’s graduation.
Joki's lawsuit said two of his grandchildren were charged to register for kindergarten and for supplies and milk, and his grandson Peyton had to pay $85 in fees at Meridian High for chemistry, art and sports medicine classes, as well as for "junior class dues."
Joki voted against the motion Tuesday, saying fee elimination should not wait for next fall, but be put in effect for the second semester of this school year.
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Students who can’t pay can go to an administrator and say they unable to afford the fees, but Joki said “that is humiliating and (something) our students shouldn’t have to endure.”
The board’s decision leaves the district without a clear idea of exactly how much money they will be losing in fees, or an exact plan of what they will do next, said Mary Ann Ranells, newly appointed superintendent.
“Philosophically, morally, ethically we don’t think we should charge fees,” Ranells said.
Misty Sterk, an Eagle High science teacher, said the fees don’t even cover all the costs of the materials she uses in her lab classes, which can run several hundred dollars.
“I don’t know how I can teach a lab if I don’t have supplies,” she said. “It’s like having a gourmet kitchen and I don’t have any food.”
District staff have been dealing with how to make up the difference for the past week, said Trustee Julie Madsen.
West Ada District will not cut any programs or lose any teachers over the elimination of fees, she said. “We don’t expect teachers to be supplementing what goes in the classroom.”
The board also voted to drop any appeal to the court decision. Joki abstained.
New superintendent contract
Trustees voted unanimously for a contract for their new superintendent, Mary Ann Ranells. The contract is for $77,428.26 through the end of June; a full-year contract could then be considered for the 2016-17 school year. As a retired educator, Ranells cannot have a contract longer than one year.