Leanne Dulle, director of finance with the Medicine Hat Public School Division, gave a breakdown of school fees for the upcoming 2023-24 school year at the final board meeting for the year past.
Dulle began with an overview of the process, explaining that since about 2020, school divisions in the province no longer need to have school fees approved by Alberta Education but must have an approved school fee policy in place, which MHPSD does, although it is due for revision.
All fee increases go through central office, and fees for option courses – construction, art and others – have a more robust process as they must also be approved by a co-ordinating committee.
“We also recognize for certain fees we can’t magically know,” continued Dulle. “Such as what track and field will look like in 2024, one of those later school year sports, or an activity field trip that will occur later in the year. There always has been, with the revision from 2020, an opportunity for activity fees, travel and sports fees to get updated throughout the year. We’ve kept the formality of having those different checkpoint throughout the year, schools must ask us to change it.”
For those schools showing fee increases next year, they are primarily for field trips, extracurricular sports or tournaments rather than supply-type items. Many schools are not having any fee increases, such as Dr. Roy Wilson, Vincent Massey, Elm Street and Ross Glen, among others. If fees increase over a certain percentage, the school must provide background information to central office to explain why.
Board chair Catherine Wilson asked the student delegates present at the meeting if they were aware of any students who couldn’t afford to pay for activities, such as sports or option courses.
“This is another good thing, being student delegates, because you could help other students if they were interested in going on a field trip or interested in taking drama or art and they didn’t have the funds to pay,” Wilson said. “You could guide them in the right direction to talk to someone about taking those courses because public schools are for everyone.” Students could approach teachers, counsellors, administration, or coaches as they are all aware that students can partake in all activities even if they can’t afford it.
“There is a formal fee waiver form that would need to be completed, and there is backup required to show they are eligible for that waiver,” said Duelle.
“We’ll try to get waiver forms filled out and sent home,” added superintendent Mark Davidson. “But if people don’t respond, we aren’t walking kids out of classes three weeks into the semester. The one where we need to think about how we as a system communicate with young people about support for participation is for things like sports.”
Students aren’t timetabled into sports and the discussion centred around if some students look at the forms, see how much it costs to join and don’t bother because they aren’t aware of supports available.
Vice chair Pat Grisonich made it clear that fees have never been a barrier to any student joining a school sports team and no players have ever been cut because they didn’t have the money.
“When I was helping out on the high school teams, money is never brought up. When there is a tryout, you never bring up it’s going to cost this much money. When they make a team, we sit down and talk with the parents to say this is the cost, but the coach will tell them we can help.”
Davidson suggested the board work out a public declaration with school administrators for when tryouts are being announced to state the ability to pay does not limit a student’s ability to make the team.
For details on school fees for each school, the full document can be viewed under the June 29 meeting tab at mhpsd.ca/minutes-agendas.
By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jul 11, 2023