Public education: relatively inexpensive, but not free
Although attending kindergarten through 12th grade in public school costs much less than attending college or private school, parents probably notice that small fees here and there start to pile up, especially for families with more than one child.
Class fees are charged to every student from seventh grade on up to offset the cost of books, assemblies, and other school-wide activities, explained Patricia Murphy, Park City School District (PCSD) business administrator.
Additional fees are charged to students of all ages for extras such as field trips, yearbooks, musical instrument rentals, and to participate in most intramural and interscholastic activities. Once students reach high school, many elective and advanced level classes carry a fee, as well as most after-school activities.
Kindergarten through sixth grade
Public schools cannot charge fees for mandatory programs and services for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, according to Utah state law.
PCSD elementary schoolers are charged $20 to $60 to participate in after-school enrichment programs, intramural or club participation can cost as much as $105, ski lessons are offered for $200, and a yearbook will cost between $21 and $28.
Seventh and eighth grade
Starting in seventh-grade, each student must pay class fees when they register for school. At Ecker Hill International Middle School (EHIMS), seventh-graders pay a total of $131 in student fees. These fees are charged for books and instructional supplies ($35), technology life and careers ($25), elective course fees ($35), physical education (p.e.) and p.e. uniforms ($30), and a student agenda ($6). Treasure Mountain International School (TMIS) eighth-graders pay $96 to cover the same middle school basics.
Field trips, after-school club participation and yearbooks are extras that cost the same as they do at the elementary schools.
The North Summit School District (NSSD) charges a $20 student activity fee to every seventh and eighth-grader at registration. South Summit School District (SSSD) middle school students don’t pay class fees unless they sign up for art classes or shop classes. Art students pay $14 for an art kit, and shop fees vary depending on the projects.
All Park City High School (PCHS) students pay a $45 fee which is used to pay for assemblies, school newspaper, student government, plays, and social events. The fee is meant to defray the additional burden these activities place on the budget. Donna McManus, PCHS financial secretary explained that the principal and employees at the district office get together before each school year to figure out how much they will need to charge each student to cover these costs.
Also, a $60 activity fee is charged for competitive, extra-curricular activities such as sports, band, chorus, forensics, drama, and academic decathlon. Football players pay $85, and $30 is charged for participation in beginning choir. A cap of $180 ($205 if the student participates in football) per student or $360 per family prevents activity fees from becoming outrageous.
Some classes at the high school also come with a price tag. For example, senior Tommy Martin is taking the following classes this semester; class fees are placed in parenthesis where applicable:
AP Government ($86)
Math 1050,1060 ($40)
AP Spanish Literature ($86)
Martin explained that the fee for jewelry is for supplies, his math class has an online component that he must pay for, and at the conclusion of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, a national test must be taken and passed in order for him to receive college credit.
The more involved a student is, the more he or she (or his or her parents) has to pay. Most clubs charge a $15 membership fee. Students may also end up taking the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) for $45 and driver’s education for $130. Purchasing a parking permit ($50), graduation cap and gown ($20), and/or a yearbook ($35- $45) also cost students extra.
The most expensive student fee is $600 for a cheerleading uniform. Band and choir uniforms cost $200.
NSSD high school students pay a $35 registration fee plus class fees that range between $15 and $20. These fees primarily help pay for activities such as assemblies and dances, according to the NSSD website.
All South Summit High School (SSHS) students pay a $30 book and locker fee. Freshmen pay an additional $20 in class fees. Sophomores, juniors and seniors pay $25 for class dues. These dues go to dances, graduation parties, and social events.
Fee waiver policy
All three school districts in the area have a similar fee waiver policy for families who can’t afford to pay. The policy states that students who "are in state custody or foster care, are receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Supplemental Security Income, or are eligible for free lunch," don’t have to pay school fees. Also, fee waivers can be granted under extenuating circumstances at the discretion of the school district. Fee waiver requests are handled by each school’s principal during registration.
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