Bridgehampton School Board members continued to debate whether to allow students from other districts to attend school without paying tuition Monday night, after receiving advice from their attorney that they could waive tuition for students who are currently enrolled in the school.
Eighteen students, many of whom are the children of district employees, currently attend school in Bridgehampton without paying tuition, which led state auditors to criticize the district in January for not taking advantage of revenue the school could raise by charging them. The state estimated that the district could bring in as much as $350,000 by charging tuition to those students.
The school district’s attorney, Tom Volz, told board members Monday night that they need to establish a clear policy by which the students are grandfathered in that will hold up in court.
The board adopted a $15,000 out-of-district tuition policy for the high school and voted to charge elementary students from other districts $11,500 per year last September, but at that time still allowed students who are currently attending for free to continue to do so.
Board member Joe Berhalter adamantly opposed the proposal, which was seen more favorably by many others on the board. Mr. Berhalter estimated that the district would give away $5 million worth of education to the out-of-district students currently enrolled in the school over the course of their education in Bridgehampton.
“It would be up to us to look at the actual costs,” of accepting out of district students, said board member Rick Delano, who added that the students are not costing the district much due to the already low enrollment and the cost of upkeep of the building. “Many of the students would be unable to pay in any case. I think most logical people would look at the empty desks.”
Mr. Berhalter said that the district could certainly save money on staff, adding that he’d calculated that there are 1.5 staff members for every student in Bridgehampton.
“You can’t put a janitor in a fourth-grade classroom,” said Mr. Delano.
“The kids who have been here since pre-K are not costing the district additional money,” said Tanya Dawson, a parent whose three children attend school in Bridgehampton, though they no longer live in the hamlet.
“I think we’re supporting a policy all of us on the board want to continue,” said Mr. Delano, who advocated that the board perform a study of the actual costs associated with the education of students from other districts. “All the commissioner is asking for is that we know how to value” that education.
The School Board agreed to perform a study of the true cost of providing that education.
The School Board also discussed the possibility of allowing BOCES to use two classrooms to teach nurse assisting and clinical medical assisting programs at the school.
School Superintendent Dianne Youngblood said that the proposal was a “tremendous opportunity for all East End schools.”