Questions of alternative school tuition arrive with budget season
DARIEN — As the Board of Education is preparing to approve their 2018-19 budget, there are questions about how much the district should charge students from other towns to come to Fitch Academy.
The alternative high school program has been met with positive feedback so far during its first year and the district is considering offering it to a small number of students from other towns — at a price.
Superintendent Dan Brenner said based on his experience working with similar program models, starting tuition should be about $45,000 per out-of-district student with an up-cost if the student needs additional services.
“That’s very standard for any out-of-district placement,” Brenner said at a Jan. 23 school board meeting. “We examined schools that work with similar types of students to Fitch.”
Most schools of a similar model charge $56,000 to $88,000, but Brenner said his hope is taking in students at a lower price would encourage other towns to offer Darien discounts on out-placement costs.
“The theory behind that is we’re looking to build a program that’ll allow us to generate revenue and allow local districts to send students to us at reduced cost with the idea they’d build a program that’d offer a need for us and offer that program at a reduced rate,” Brenner said.
Brenner said the program would first be filled with Darien students to make sure local students’ needs were the priority, allowing no more than two or three students from other districts in.
While the board toyed with the notion of upping tuition, board chairman Tara Ochman said the district needed to be cognizant of the program’s successful, but small, track record.
“I’m proud of our one-year track record, but it’s a one-year track record,” she said. “I’d argue in favor of starting slightly below market rate.”
Discussions about Fitch Academy and the starting tuition for out-of-district students is ongoing. The next Board of Education meeting is set for Feb. 13.