School fee reductions will not include the optional busing provided for students that live less than 2.4 km from their designated school. Black Press file photo

School fee cuts will save parents money

Ponoka and area families will see a reduction in some fees for this school year

Parents in Ponoka will see a bit of a difference as children head back to school, but it may not be as much as expected.

Earlier this year, the provincial government began the process of following through on its 2015 election promise to eliminate school fees by ensuring new legislation was brought forward to ban fees for most busing and basic instruction.

The law was passed in June and is expected to provide families with savings.

For Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS), students will no longer have to pay $37 for kindergarten, $65 for elementary grades, $78 for junior high and $91 for high school.

“This fee used to assist with covering the costs of textbooks, workbooks, photocopying and printing, or paper,” said Jayson Lovell, WCPS superintendent.

“Schools will still be able to charge for specific individual user fees such as field trips and curricular resources that are for personal use and which students keep, as well as for optional resources and activities.”

Lovell added that schools will also be able to charge fees for items used in various courses, mostly at the high school level that use consumable materials such as wood, fabric and cosmetics. Students who attend alternative programs can still be charged, but Lovell explained the fee is strictly cost-recovery.

Over at the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division, which operates St. Augustine School, parents will save fees that amount to about $27,000.

St. Augustine last year charged fees of $40 for kindergarten, $35 for elementary grades, $45 for junior high and $60 for high school, explained STAR secretary-treasurer Ed Latka.

Aside from basic instruction fees, the province cut the cost of transportation for families by banning fees for students that live more than 2.4 km from their designated school.

However, WCPS and STAR are not affected by this rule implementation as STAR contracts out its busing to WCPS, which has never charged for that particular aspect of busing.

“Some school districts were doing that, but Wolf Creek has never charged a fee to those parents,” Lovell said.

“We do provide urban busing in Lacombe, Ponoka and Blackfalds for parents choosing to pay for service under the 2.4 kilometre distance.”

Those fees remain unchanged from last year at $237.50 for kindergarten and $475 for Grade 1-12 to a maximum of $950 per family.

As part of the fee change process, school divisions had to submit their fee schedules and administrative procedures to Alberta Education for approval.

Currently, WCPS needs to make some amendments as the province requested the division make some additional changes, while STAR has completed that process.

All school divisions also must submit fees for co-curricular, non-curricular and sports or activities, with a deadline of Sept. 15.

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