The Abbotsford School District says no student will be left behind by what could be prohibitive costs approved by the school board for the 2019/20 school year.
Among the fees approved by the school board, which were largely unmoved from last year, are up to $30 for middle and secondary school “student activity fees,” up to $16 for parking permits and up to $60 for graduation convocation ceremonies.
Also included on the list is an undefined cost for “personal supplies in accordance with the supply list approved by the district.”
That item has drawn some controversy in the past, with a 2006 B.C. Supreme Court ruling finding that school districts cannot charge for items necessary to graduate, such as paper and pencils or field trips.
However, school districts have often worked around the ruling by putting out a list of required supplies for each class, while acknowledging that if a student’s family cannot afford the supplies, the school must provide them.
Superintendent Kevin Godden said he feels the policy avoids putting children in uncomfortable situations in which they must state that they cannot afford supplies.
“If a child shows up and they make a declaration that we cannot, or I cannot, afford it, it is not an issue. We carry on,” Godden said.
“That declaration comes with some trust and respect and dignity that we try to afford parents, and we do our best to try to accommodate that.”
School board chair Stan Petersen added that the declaration is done discreetly and that district staff are “well-trained and understanding in this process.”
The board also approved the annual fees for sports academies in the district, which range anywhere from $500 for the Eugene Reimer Middle School Soccer Academy to $15,000 for the U18 team in the Yale Hockey Academy.
All four Yale Hockey Academy teams cost $14,000 and higher, while most soccer academies are at $500 to $750. Baseball, softball and golf academies all cost in the mid $2,000 range, except the Yale Baseball Elite Academy at $8,500.
Secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk said the rates are “break-even fees,” due to Ministry of Education regulations that bar school districts from profiting off of academies.
The costs largely come from high-level tournaments, ice time and travel, Petersen said. He said there are no scholarships for the programs, but added that he didn’t believe a student would be turned away from an academy if they could not afford the fees.
“I don’t think we’ve turned kids away from any our programs,” he said, adding that a youth who cannot afford the program will not, then, incur debt for the family.
“You’d be surprised how many students are supported in any number of ways because they can’t afford it, and not just in academies.”