Aug. 26, 2003 – As parents congregated in the office of Eulalie Rivera Elementary School on Monday, the first day of classes, the hot topic was school fees.
According to Principal Jewel Brathwaite, the fees at her school total $75 per child. They cover workbooks, computer and science lab fees, insurance, workbooks, other assessments and a school T-shirt. But there is some flexibility, she said.
– The T-shirts are worn during physical education classes and on school field trips. However, if a student already has such a shirt, $10 can be deducted from the fees total.
– Insurance is mandatory for every child at the public schools. However, if a child is covered under an existing policy, the $9 insurance fee also can be deducted from the total.
Parents and politicians have questioned the legality of the Education Department charging parents for any portion of public school costs.
The V.I. Code, Title 17, Chapter 5, Section 42 states: "The Department of Education shall supply, free of charge, all textbooks to be used in the public school, as deemed appropriate by the Virgin Islands Board Of Education." The code says parents are responsible for the return of any books lent to pupils, or for the cost of any that are not returned.
Brathwaite said parents were notified of the fees as early as last April and were given the option of paying in three $25 installments over the summer.
While some parents raised objections to the fees on Monday, others said they did not mind the cost because it is for their children's education.
One unidentified parent with several children enrolled in the school was ready to go back home and get the $280 necessary to pay the school fees for his children. "I don't mind the fees," he said. "This is a good school, and not everything in life is free."
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