COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — Thursday morning an email blast was sent to most Academy School District 20 families announcing parents and guardians would be responsible for paying a new $50 electronics maintenance fee for the upcoming school year.
Funding allowed Academy School District 20 to buy 11,000 devices recently. However, there are more than double that amount of students enrolled in the district.
According to the district, each student will be charged a $50 fee in exchange for their own district device. The charge will also cover software and minor device repairs.
Only a handful of schools are not included in the device fee. Students receiving free and reduced lunch are also automatically exempt from the charge. The district says families that don’t receive free or reduced lunch can also speak to their principal if they’re worried about affording the $50.
Still, some parents expressed concerns to 13 Investigates, asking how it’s legal for a public school district funded through personal property taxes to implement fees. District 20 spokesperson Allison Cortez says the district asked families a few years ago how much they’d be comfortable paying in order for every student in 3rd through 12th grade to get their own laptop or iPad.
Cortez tells 13 Investigates that input from parents dictated the amount of the fee, which was approved by the Academy District 20 School Board last spring. She adds that a number of families communicated concerns so far on Thursday.
“We’ve gotten some feedback, but out of the 26,000, it’s probably 25 folks,” said Cortez.
13 Investigates found the Colorado statute related to public education fees for students in elementary, middle, and high schools. The Colorado Revised Statute on miscellaneous fees in education states in part:
"A board may not require a pupil who has not completed the twelfth grade to pay:
(I) Any fees as a condition of enrollment in school or as a condition of attendance in any course of study, instruction, or class;
(II) Any fees for any course of study, instruction, or class that satisfies the requirements of or transfers the skill, knowledge, or information necessary to meet the requirements of any such course taken for credit, promotion, or graduation.”Colorado Revised Statute § 22-32-117
However, according to a Frequently Asked Questions page, the charge isn’t exactly mandatory. The district says students in grades 3-12 will have a device checked out to them even if a fee has not been paid. If the fee remains unpaid by the end of August, the laptop or iPad will have to stay at school and won’t be sent home with the student.
Students can also use their own computers or iPads, but they will still be charged the $50. The district has set aside one device per student so everyone can have equal access to the electronics. Cortez says it also cuts back on the amount of time teachers spend troubleshooting tablets of all different brands.
“It’s a state mandate in Colorado that you cannot take state assessments on your personal computer,” said Cortez. “You have to use a district device to take a state assessment. So this gives a platform that’s the same that you’re learning on.”
School Districts 11 and 49 told 13 Investigates they will not be implementing similar electronics fees for the 2021-22 school year.