Volunteering will replace money for families who choose to donate their time to Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 for their children’s tuition beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
District Superintendent Theresa Plascencia said the decision to use volunteer time as a way to pay student fees is part of a comprehensive review of all policies with an equity lens, which started over a year ago.
A number of committees have been formed to review the policies. Some are already implemented, others will be implemented in the future and others are still under discussion. Plascencia said the fee review board took an innovative approach to payment satisfaction.
“I hope this is something many of our parents will benefit from, and we look forward to introducing more details about the process as the year progresses,” Plascencia said.
The District 60 school board unanimously approved the policy change during a regular meeting Tuesday at the Lincoln Center administration building as part of the ongoing equity review.
Board members also voted 6-1 to waive fees for the upcoming school year and to approve a deal with Gurnee-based RJ Harris & Associates to support school safety and security. .
A large percentage of registration fees are regularly waived and the collection rate is low. For the 2018-2019 school year before any impact from the coronavirus pandemic, just over $1.8 million in fees were assessed, just over $1.2 million were waived, and 67,126, $35 was raised, according to district records.
Gwendolyn Polk, the district’s associate superintendent for business and financial services, said fees for all families were waived for the previous two school years due to the pandemic. Fees for the year ended Thursday were waived at the meeting.
“Due to the economy and the socio-economic dynamics of our community, we suggest that we again consider waiving the fee,” Polk said during the meeting.
Board of Trustees Chairman Brandon Ewing said before the vote that 69% of students in the district were below the poverty line and that waiving fees was “the right thing to do.”
Rick Riddle, the vice chairman of the board, voted against the waiver. He said he understood the collection rate was low, but was uncomfortable waiving the fee. If this is done year after year, he fears it will be difficult to find people willing to volunteer when this policy is put in place.
“I think everyone should pay something,” Riddle said before casting his vote. “We have a waiver policy for those who cannot afford it. I think people should realize that it costs something to educate their children. I know taxes go there too, but I think most schools charge a tuition fee.
As for the school safety support contract, a major component of the safety program involves traffic patterns and monitoring of all buildings, according to the proposal. Awareness of gang activity will also be assessed in partnership with local law enforcement, as well as each building’s potential vulnerability during and after school. Teachers and staff will be trained.
Board member Jeff McBride said retired Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles is now with Harris & Associates. He looks forward to the expertise Walles will bring.
“I can respect the police chief for everything he’s done for Waukegan,” McBride said. “I think the man has a wealth of knowledge and might be able to help us here.”
Adriana Gonzalez, a board member who voted against the deal, said the administration knows what needs to be done to educate faculty and staff about the needs. She would like to see the money spent on helping students socially and emotionally.
“I don’t know if I’m convinced that we need guidance to understand the rest of this work, and we’ve heard from students that they want social emotional support,” Gonzalez said. “I think it contributes to the safety component in school buildings.”