Archive for Thursday, April 5, 2001

DeSoto School Board to keep school fees steady in coming year

April 5, 2001

The DeSoto school district won't ask parents to dig deeper into their pockets to send their children off to school next fall.

The DeSoto school district's fee schedule for the 2001-2002 school year includes only one increase, a 5-cent hike in the cost for a half pint of milk for kindergarten students. The fee schedule remained so consistent that it required no action by the board Monday.

At a meeting March 28, the board agreed not to change the district's one-year-old bus ridership fee. The decision will leave in place the $75-per-semester charge for students who live more than 2.5 miles from their attendance center as measured by the best available route.

The charge is only levied on the first two riders in each family and does not apply to preschoolers, kindergarten students or those on free or reduced lunches.

The district will face higher transportation costs during the next school year, said Jack Deyoe, district transportation director. He explained the district's contract with Laidlaw Transportation includes a 3-percent annual increase. In addition, he said the district would have to lease two or three more buses to serve its growing enrollment.

If the district passed on the 3-percent increase to the students, it would only collect from $2,300 to $2,500. Deyoe suggested the district could collect more if it built ridership by holding the fee at its current level for another year.

"We saw a lot of people, who chose not to ride the first semester, sign on for the second semester," he said. "I think we will see a marked increase next year from growth and return riders."

The board revisited another issue Monday one that Superintendent Marilyn Layman had expressed regret she didn't fight harder for when it was first considered.

In the fall of 1999, the school board rejected two proposals that would have made NetSchool laptops available to middle school students for $2,400 per computer. One plan would have made the laptops available to all middle school students during the program's first year and the other would have phased in their use over a three-year period.

Board member Jim Thomas of Shawnee said he overcame many of his reservations after a conversation with NetSchool representatives during a recent convention of the National Association of School Boards.

Thomas said the laptops NetSchool offered in 1999 were obsolete and used an outdated operating system. He was also concerned about the lack of curriculum options NetSchool offered with its program.

The company has addressed those concerns, Thomas said.

As for cost, Thomas said the use of laptops could save the district money by reducing the amount of computer work stations, computer wiring and computer-related cooling costs. The district could also realize savings by eliminating some textbooks with materials available on the Internet, he said.

Thomas' renewed interest was shared by his fellow members Monday. The board directed district staff to develop estimates of savings and expenses the district would incur from the use of laptops.

"We're going to be buying computers anyway," Thomas said after the meeting. "It's going to take quite a bit of investigation to find out what savings can be realized."

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