The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 23, 2006


Sharp rise seen in kindergarten fees

Fees for bus service, kindergarten, and sports continue to be a source of revenue for the Carlisle School. A sharp rise in the kindergarten fees and a modest decrease in sport fees were set at the June 7 Carlisle School Committee (CSC) meeting. School fees were first installed after a failed school budget override in 1990.

Bus stays the same for next year

The bus transportation fee for seventh and eighth graders will remain at $395 per student. The new bus contract increased by 10%, explained Carlisle School Business Manager Steve Moore in an e-mail, "but we did not have to increase the fee because of the increase in student population for grades seven and eight." The "family cap," or limit on charges remains: the first seventh/eighth grader in a family will pay full price and additional seventh/eighth graders will pay half price. Bus fees were started in 2000, when a $50 bus fee was applied to all students living less than two miles from school, as well as all seventh and eighth graders. By 2002 just seventh/eighth graders were charged, but the fee had risen to $365.

Sports fee falls slightly

Individual sport fees will decrease approximately $10 per student per sport, Carlisle School Business Manager Steven Moore said, but a family cap is not offered. He explained that totalling all the sports costs and income, there was a very small surplus over the last year, and therefore they were able to lower fees slightly for next year.

The fee for varsity sports will be $175 per sport per student, and "junior varsity" sports will be $85 per sport per student. Cross country, offered in the fall, continues to be the most popular sport, and provided a $6,000 profit during the current school year. Moore projected a $3,000 profit from cross country for next year, the decrease due to equalizing the stipends paid to the sport coaches. Most of the sports run at a deficit, he explained, some as much as $1,000, and so aided by the profit made from cross country.

Sports supporting sports

Responding to a question on whether it would be fairer to charge for each individual sport, Carlisle Principal Steve Goodwin said though it's uncomfortable to have one sport "support" the others it would be impossible to charge fees based on a particular sport. Costs vary, such as with field hockey (which ran at a $1200 deficit this year), which is affected by team size (which is not determined until the sport begins) as well as the required equipment, and needed facilities. It is fairer to simply charge one fee for all sports, he added. When asked how families with multiple children can afford multiple sports he answered, "We will make any accommodations we can to allow a child to participate in sports." Students who are on the "reduced or free" lunch plan can qualify for assistance, he explained. In rare cases, Moore added, parents have used payment plans to pay the fees.

Large increase for Kindergarten

The CSC voted to increase the full-day kindergarten fee to $775 for the 2006-07 school year, with no multiple-child family discount. Tuesdays and Thursdays are full days, while the other three days children attend kindergarten mornings only.

The cost has risen steeply over the past decade. This past year the fee was $575 and in 2004 the cost to parents was about $500. Moore said the fee is calculated by the salary costs divided by the number of students. One reason the fee will rise is because next year there will be four sections of kindergarten, whereas this year had only three classes. Even though there are more students to split the bill, the new teacher's salary will increase the per student cost.

Though Massachusetts schools are required to offer kindergarten only five mornings a week, in the late 1990s Carlisle began a pilot program to offer full-day Kindergarten twice a week. At first, grants helped fund the free program, which only ran during the second half of the school year. (The program now runs year-long.) The pilot program was soon made permanent, and the cost was included in the school budget for the next three or four years. Then, the program cost was transferred to the parents. The expense for additional teacher hours was $8,000 in 2000-2001. (See As the Mosquito Saw It, page 220.) That year there were five sections of kindergarten, and parents paid roughly $80 per child. By 2003 parents were asked to pay $350. Though children are not required to participate in the afternoon sessions, so far, according to Goodwin, attendance is near one hundred percent.

Is Carlisle unique?

Billerica, and Bedford, Carlisle's close neighbors, as well as Burlington, do not charge fees. However, Carlisle is not unique in charging fees. According to the "Massachusetts Public Schools Survey of Fees" (Download in PDF format) published in December, 2005, roughly two-thirds of the more than 280 schools included in the report charge sports fees. Many also charge kindergarten fees. Schools with sports fees close to Carlisle include: Chelmsford ($125, no cap), Lexington ($66, $400 cap), Danvers ($34 - $270, no cap), Harvard ($250, no cap), and Lincoln ($150, no cap). Most of the schools also charge bus and full day kindergarten fees.

Many schools, such as Acton-Boxborough High School (sports fee $160, family cap $640) have a variety of ways to handle the fees and family caps. Noting that the sports fees can add up, there was a request for a family cap. None is planned for sports at this time, Moore replied.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito