The public school system is intended to provide all of our children with an equitable education, regardless of their family’s income. School fees should never stand in the way of their education, and the School Act requires boards to set out policies and procedures to allow participation by all children who would otherwise be excluded because of financial hardship.
This is policy 5101 for the Prince George School District.
The policy starts: “The Board of Education of School District No. 57 (Prince George) is committed to ensuring that no student is denied an opportunity to participate in a course, class or program because of financial hardship.”
I’ve bolded some important parts of the administrative procedures:
- All communication with students and/or parents regarding fees and deposits must include a statement that explains that fees will not be a barrier to student participation in school activities.
- Schools will publish, at the beginning of each school year, a schedule of fees and deposits. This schedule shall include reference to the procedures that can be followed by students, or parents on behalf of students, who would otherwise be excluded from the course, class or activity because of financial hardship.
- Schools will establish a hardship application process that is clear to students and parents. All staff members should be aware of this financial hardship provision and be able to advise students and parents with regard to access.
- The procedures for addressing financial hardship must be clearly communicated to parents and students and should be conveyed in such media as the student handbook, the parent handbook, student planners, newsletters and/or the school’s website.
- The hardship application process may be formal or informal. The process must always, however, respect an individual’s privacy and dignity and adhere to strict principles of confidentiality and fairness.
- All requests for support will be considered by the school. The school should consider, but not be limited to, the following options: deferred payment, payment over time, partial waiver or full waiver.
The regulations of the policy go into more detail over what is covered, and distinguish between curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular. Curricular and co-curriculum items are covered – “Schools will have in place procedures for ensuring reasonable access for all students wishing to participate in curricular and co-curricular activities.” Extra-curricular items are not obligated to be covered, but schools are encouraged to facilitate access to these.
Interestingly enough, a lot of people misinterpret this part of the policy, assuming that regular field trips are extra-curricular. They are not – they are co-curricular, according to the policy’s definitions:
- “Curricular” means of or pertaining to courses or activities directly relating to prescribed learning outcomes outlined by the Ministry of Education
- “Co-curricular” means of or pertaining to activities that, while not required, are intended to enhance the prescribed learning outcomes outlined by the Ministry of Education (e.g. field trips, band concerts, debating clubs, etc.)
- “Extra-curricular” means of or pertaining to activities that do not have as their primary focus the prescribed learning outcomes outlined by the Ministry of Education (e.g. international trips at spring break, athletic teams, school dances, etc.)
Parents and students should keep this policy in mind. If material comes home from school without information about financial hardship, please politely remind the school about this policy.
Lastly, some students will self-select out of field trips or courses, rather than ask their parents for money that they know they don’t have, or admit to their teacher that poverty is an issue. Schools should be on the lookout for students are excluding themselves for this reason, and parents and students should be aware that there is funding available for hardship. All students should be included – we all benefit from an equitable education system.