Family owes tuition, school board says

January 14, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

A Carroll County family that has temporarily moved a quarter-mile across the Baltimore County line must pay tuition for their children to continue attending Manchester Elementary School, the school board has ruled.

Board members refused Wednesday to change the policy to allow a one-year grace period from tuition for families that have been living in Carroll County but move out of the county temporarily while their new homes are being built.

Rose and Charles Frase of Grave Run Road had asked the board to change the policy or waive it for them because of what they termed extenuating circumstances.

The Frases are building a home on Bachmans Valley Road. They sold their old house on Grave Run Road in Carroll County in April, and moved temporarily down the road to a home that people at their church found for them on Grave Run Road in Baltimore County. They kept their same phone number.

The Frases did not tell the school of the address change, and took their two children to a bus stop each day for the ride to Manchester Elementary School. The children rode the bus to their day-care home in Manchester on days when their father couldn't pick them up.

Someone reported the family to school officials this fall, Mrs. Frase said.

She did not pay the county tuition, she said, because she was counting on the school board changing its policy or granting her a waiver. The tuition is $2,904 a year for each child.

"We'll just pray that God will give us a way to find the money to pay the tuition," said Mrs. Frase.

She and her husband said they don't want to remove the children from Manchester Elementary School, and were willing to look only at houses and lots within the school's attendance area when they were searching for a new home.

Describing herself as a big supporter of Manchester Elementary, she said she felt "betrayed" when she was reported to school officials.

Richard Simmons, a pupil personnel worker, said the Frases' situation is not unusual. He has dealt with at least three such cases this year, and other workers have probably had some, he said.

In some cases, Mr. Simmons said, the schools have threatened to prosecute parents who are as much as seven years in arrears on tuition. However, no parents have been prosecuted, he said.

"People have all kinds of reasons" for wanting to send their children to Carroll schools even though they live in other Maryland counties or in Pennsylvania, he said. Many are willing to be open about it and pay the tuition, he said.

Although the Frases will get some credit for the county property taxes they are paying, they will have to start paying tuition of about $645 a month, possibly back to April, for their children to attend Carroll schools.

Mrs. Frase said the tuition will be a hardship for the one-paycheck family. She works at the Cockeysville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. Her husband, who is not working, is the general contractor on their new house.

"I still think for people who have been Carroll County residents, who have to move out of the county temporarily, the one-year grace period is an option that should be offered," she said.

County school policy allows a grace period for families if they can provide a statement from a builder that their house will be ready within 90 days.

There are a few other situations in which tuition would be waived, such as when the Carroll County Department of Social Services places a child with a family in the county. The school superintendent also has discretion to allow tuition-free placement for hardship reasons.

In another case, Carroll school administrators are considering whether to allow Sharon White of Manchester to re-enroll her children in Carroll County schools tuition-free. Ms. White's home was severely damaged by a fire two years ago, and she has been living in Reisterstown with her brother while she tries to secure a loan to complete the repairs.

School officials suggested she should provide documents from the loan officer and builder, and re-apply for a 90-day waiver. She and her lawyer have been faxing documents all week and hoping she will get a positive answer soon.

Ms. White has appealed to the administrators for consideration as a hardship case. Her case has not reached the school board.

She continued to send her children to North Carroll schools after the fire. But in August, when she had not completed repairs and moved back to the home, school officials told her she would have to apply for a waiver.

School officials gave Ms. White a 90-day grace period in September, and she said she expected the loan would come through so her home repairs could be completed within the waiver period. By Thanksgiving, the waiver had expired, the loan still was not approved and her children were not allowed back to school pending her payment of tuition.

She has been keeping them at home since then, rather than enrolling them for a few months in Baltimore County schools. A single mother who works as a secretary, Ms. White said she doesn't have the money to pay $1,600 a month tuition for her six school-age children.

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