Returning students must pay $30 by March 21

Returning students must pay $30 by March 21

Felicia Solazzo and Keiran Sheridan, Staff Writers

In an effort to cut $30 million from the district budget, the school board has approved a $30 application fee for those entering the lottery. In addition, returning students also will have to pay a $30 reapplication fee each year. As a result, all West Shore students who plan to return the school next year must make an online payment of $30 between March 4 and March 21.

According to Brevard Public Schools directive, if the payment is not made during the specified timeframe, the student will not be allowed to continue at West Shore for the 2013-14 school year and must return to his or her zoned school. In addition, new applicants who submitted their paperwork by the March 1 deadline must also pay the $30 application fee during the same timeframe. If payment is not received during the specified timeframe, the student will not receive a notification/commitment letter. Those submitting applications after the original March 1 deadline must make the online payment at the same time the application is submitted to the school. The link to the online payment system can be accessed on the district’s home page or on the West Shore website.

“I think [the fee] is ridiculous,” junior Ryan Robidoux said. “I have been attending West Shore since seventh grade, and I don’t see why I am now required to pay a fee to return. I feel as if it should be a one-time entrance fee, not a recurring charge.”

The problem is the district needs to generate as much additional revenue as possible. School Board Chairwoman Barbara Murray has referred to the current challenges faced by the school district as being “the perfect storm.”

“These are difficult times” she said via email. “State revenue was reduced approximately 60 percent in our capital fund. Such fund pays our (mortgage) debt, maintenance, facility upgrades and buses. During this period, the state mandated class size and technology with no additional funding.”

In addition, property values have fallen substantially in recent years, adding to the lack of funding. Had voters approved the half-cent sales tax referendum in the November election, the school board says it would not need to find alternative methods of funding.

“The expiration of the quarter-mill property tax, is what prompted the half-cent sales tax referendum,” Murray said. “And voters did not vote that in.”

According to Choice School Coordinator Christine Davis, the total estimated revenue to be generated across the district from the application fee is between $200,000 and $300,000.

“The money collected by the fee is going to go towards district programs and student subjects that may be on the ‘cut list,”’ Davis said.

Those subjects include staffing for elementary school music and art programs and duel enrollment guidance counseling.

“In the past, families may have applied to multiple choice programs or applied several times to an out-of-area school. They may not be doing that now because there is a fee due to budgetary constraints,” Davis said. “Now they might be submitting one application rather than three, so that’s why there is the $200,000 to $300,000 range.”

In a recent memorandum sent to principals, Office of School Choice Director Vicki Mace explained the new implementation process regarding application fees.

“The collection of the $30.00 application fee for out-of-area assignments and participation in choice schools/programs will not be the responsibility of school personnel,” Mace wrote.

According to the letter, all fees will be paid online using a secure payment system that accepts e-checks, debit/credit cards and money orders.

“The 2013-2014 out-of-area process will be automated and will include functions to make the process more efficient,” Mace said. “Some of the functions include notifying parents of the final approval/denial decision via email, text or telephone and providing a tracking device for parents to monitor their requests.”

The school board is working with Scribbles Software, Inc. to implement this process. A $2 merchant per-application fee is factored into the $30 cost.

“In reality, you are paying a $30 fee, but the company’s transaction fee is $2. The district is then only going to collect $28,” Davis said. “There is no charge to the district and there is no additional charge to the applicant because it’s built into that fee.”

Davis said that there will be an “alternate process” for those who do not have credit cards, but that process has not yet been determined.

In addition to the automated process, it is each school’s responsibility to create a “School Group/ Team” which will have access to various components of the new automated system. The group will hold its first meeting on March 8.

“The responsibility of that group is to assess the development of the new process,” Davis said. “As we go forward, we will be able to do it with fidelity and input from all stakeholders because the schools are the ones who are actually doing the majority when it comes to a choice application. They know what works and what needs to be done for their students and families. We need their input here at the district offices to assist with that.”

Principal Rick Fleming sees this meeting as vital.

“It is an opportunity for us to find out how we access the list of people who have paid and have not paid, and gives us the means to contact them,” he said. “So far, [Assistant Principal Jackie] Ingratta and [office clerk Janice] Kowing have been chosen to take part.”

Still, Fleming predicts complications.

“The problem is contacting everyone who has applied and informing them that it is necessary to pay the application fee in order to be entered into the lottery,” he said. “We do not have the manpower to make it possible. One person trying to call 800 individuals isn’t realistic.”

The official district communique list posted below.

March 4, 2013 – March 21, 2013

For returning choice school/program students (excludes students zoned for the school):

  • Payment must be made online during March 4 to March 21, 2013.
  • If payment is not received during the specified timeframe, the student will not be allowed to continue in the choice school/program for the upcoming school year, and they must return to their zoned school.

For new applications submitted by the March 1, 2013 deadline:

  • Payment must be made online during March 4 to March 21, 2013.
  • Students do not need to resubmit the application provided to a choice school and/or program.  The form to be completed online is for payment only.
  • If payment is not received during the specified timeframe, the student will not receive a notification/commitment letter.

For new applications submitted after March 1, 2013 for choice programs with available seats:

  • Payment must be made online at the time the application is submitted to the school.
  • If payment is not received, the student will not receive a notification/commitment letter.

For all choice schools and specified choice programs:

  • A $30.00 nonrefundable application fee applies to all new and returning students (including students of BPS employees) making a “choice” to attend a choice school or choice program that is not available at their zoned school of attendance.
  • The application fee must be paid online for each application submitted for the following:
  • Choice Schools (excludes magnet schools)
  • Choice Programs
  • International Baccalaureate (Including MYP)
  • AICE (Including Pre-AICE)
  • CTE Choice Programs
  • Stone Science and Technology
  • AP Pirates Academy
  • The link to the online payment system can be accessed on the district’s home page and/or the School Choice website.  The link will not be published until March 4, 2013.
  • The online process does not allow payment for submission of multiple applications.  If students submit applications to more than one choice school and/or program, the payment for each application must be made in a separate transaction.
  • Features of the online system include:
  • Auto-fill menus and/or check boxers to assist parents with identifying choice schools and programs that require an application fee.
  • A secure Payment System to accept E-checks, debit/credit cards, and money orders.
  • A computer is available at the Education Services Facility (ESF) in Viera for parents that do not have access to a computer/smart phone and/or Internet.

NOTE:  An out-of-area request is a different process than choice school/program application/fee.  Out-of-area request information, calendar/timeline, online application, and payment processing system will be available on the district’s website at a later date.