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WMRSD implementing some aspects of non-resident tuition student policy

October 20, 2011
WHITEFIELD — A WMRSD board policy on the admission of tuition and non-resident students was first adopted on March 24 following the two prescribed readings apparently has never really been implemented. Nonetheless, the policy was amended on June 13.

Now, according to SAU #36 Interim Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom, the spirit behind the policy will be implemented so that the District's first obligation will be to educate its own students.

"That's only fair to our own students and taxpayers," he said. "Special education services in all our buildings were at capacity last year," Fensom explained. "Even with the addition of another special ed teacher this year at WMRHS, it appears that that is still the case," he said, noting that he plans carefully to this situation in the next few days. Chronic behavior problems can also tax the District's capacity, wearing down teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators as well as affecting the atmosphere for learning, Fensom explained.

The superintendent does not plan to keep in place what has, in essence, been an open enrollment policy for out-of-district placements.

Some specifics in the amended policy, however, such as a yearly vote to reaccept all students, will likely be eliminated or modified, Fensom said. This effort will get a high priority from the board's policy subcommittee.

Last month the school board acted in its appellate role to accept a fifth-grade youngster from Guildhall.

A letter from Tim Cliche, chairman of the Lunenburg School Board in the Essex-Caledonia Supervisory Union of Concord, Vt., was read aloud by chairman Greg Odell of Dalton and briefly discussed at the Oct. 11 WMRSD board meeting.

Cliche wrote that it was his board's understanding that "several students were denied access late in the summer with some only notified after other schools had already started classes." Seventeen Lunenburg-Gilman students are now enrolled at WMRHS, and "we appreciate being able to offer them that choice," Cliche pointed out. He asked the WMRSD school board to provide his board with the specific criteria being used to determine entry into the high school.

Fensom said he would follow up and respond to the letter after finding out all the requested specifics.

The WMRSD policy as it now stands states that the WMRSD school board will accept non-resident tuition students only under the following circumstances: the decision as to whether space is available for a non-resident tuition student is a discretionary decision to be made by the school board after consultation with the superintendent. The school board decision shall be final and not subject to appeal. A potential nonresident student and his/her parent/guardian must participate in an entry interview with at least one member of the administrative team and guidance department before he/she may attend the District; but mid-year transfers, by choice, of nonresident students will not be permitted; the student's needs can be well served by the budgeted WMRSD staff and programs in the school the student will attend, and the student's attendance is not contrary to the best interests of the WMRSD; students are considered for acceptance on a first-come, first-serve basis, and must be in good standing in his/her current school.

Final decisions on accepting tuition students will be made by the school board, upon recommendation from the Principal, the policy reads. Approval by the School Board shall be on an annual basis, and students already attending WMRSD must reapply each year if they wish to return.

The policy also states that this approval will be withdrawn upon a determination by the school board that the student's continued attendance is contrary to the District's best interests; the student will be subject to the same rules and discipline process as other students attending WMRSD; and that the Superintendent may revoke the admission of a non-resident tuition student if it is determined that WMRSD cannot meet the social, emotional, physical and/or academic needs of the student within existing programs and with existing staff, or for disciplinary reasons. Any non-resident tuition student, whose enrollment is terminated for disciplinary reasons, prior to the end of the school year, has the right to a hearing before the school board. The decision of the Board is final. Parents or the sending district pay for transportation, and District of residence shall be responsible for all special education costs as provided by law. Students who are accepted as tuition students must have an annual tuition contract signed by their parents and/or guardians. A signed contract from the sending district by must in hand in writing on Sept. 1 and tuition is billed semi-annually in advance.

"This policy shall be reviewed, and tuition rates set, annually by the Board," the policy reads. A sample letter to a sending District is also included as well as guidelines for the District to use when making a determination.

Dr. Fensom noted that this policy does not apply to high school students enrolling into any of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs or to JROTC, now folded under the CTE program.

The policy could affect projected revenues.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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