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posted: 10/31/2012 11:19 AM

Dist. 204 eyes early tuition for move-ins

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By Kristy Kennedy
Daily Herald correspondent

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board members are considering charging student tuition for families who opt to send their children to district schools before they move there.

The board tabled the matter this week, but the proposed policy would be used when families' moving schedules don't coincide with the start of the school year. Some families want their children to start the year in schools they will be attending once the family moves.

District administrators recommended charging prorated fees equal to the amount of money the district spends per student in a year, about $1,000 a month. Now, families have 60 days to move into the district before they are charged any tuition.

Board member Cathy Piehl said the new fee proposal was too great a jump, particularly for families with more than one child. She suggested charging families with multiple children for one child, while giving families 60 days to move into the district before paying full tuition for each student.

"I feel like it is a little more respectful to someone who is trying to move into the district and do the right thing for the kids," she said. Also, the fee is more in line with school property taxes a family might pay, Piehl said.

Board member Christine Vickers said such families should pay tuition for all their students.

"To me, it is a voluntary act with a price," she said. Other board members said they wanted more information, such as what neighboring school districts do, before making a decision. Although this year the issue applies to only seven students, district director Terri Drendel said clarifying the policy will give families better information as they decide to move.

District 204 hired Drendel as the district's first registrar last year as part of its efforts to save money. Drendel reported Monday about 80 students have been denied enrollment this school year because of nonresidency, saving more than $750,000. Last year at this time, the same number had been denied enrollment.

"The bulk of residency discussion and denials are at the buildings," Drendel said, adding the school denials are above the 80 she has made. "The schools are getting very, very good about confirming residency. The stuff that does come to me often are those things that are questionable."

Such enrollment fraud most commonly occurs when families move, but parents want to keep continuity for their children who liked their 204 schools.

To verify residency, new students and students in kindergarten, fifth and eighth grades must provide three different proofs of residency. As leases and other documents become out of date, district officials ask for updated information.

School officials also look for red flags like returned mail, transportation issues, attendance issues and students not being clear of their address. In those cases, families may be interviewed or a private investigator hired. This year, about $3,000 has been spent on private investigators.

The district also investigates tips from residents, some made anonymously on a tip line on the district website. Many tips involve students who start the year in District 204 schools, but move during the school year. State law allows those students to finish the year in District 204.

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