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Secondary Course-Related Fees Questions & Answers

Course-Related Fees

Workbooks

Noncourse-Related Fees

Calculators

Music

Materials of Instruction

Waivers

Field Trips

Obligations

Communication

Course-Related Fees

1. Will fees be the same throughout the county?

Response: No. Designated courses have a maximum fee amount that may be charged (not to exceed the actual cost of the item). Principals have the option not to charge an allowable fee or to charge less than the maximum allowable fee for a designated course. Principals therefore have flexibility to align resources based on instructional programs and the needs of each school.

Workbooks

2. If a school provides a student a vocabulary book free of charge and the student loses it, may the school assign the student a financial obligation?

Response: Yes. When a student has lost, destroyed, or damaged property that the school has provided to the student, the appropriate obligation will be assigned.

3. When can schools charge for workbooks?

Response: If the workbook is required for classwork or homework and is part of the student’s grade, then it must be provided by the school.  

If a workbook is required for a specific course, the school may provide copies to students in three different ways:

  1. The school may provide a workbook to each student in the course and students may write in and keep the workbook.
  2. The school may provide a workbook to students to use during class and students may not write in the workbook.*
  3. The school may provide a copy of the workbook to each student in the course and students may not write in the workbook.*

* For options 2 or 3, if a student prefers to purchase the workbook so she/he may write in it, the student may be given the option to purchase the workbook at cost, if extra copies are available.  Teachers must emphasize that purchasing the required workbook is an option, not an expectation or requirement.

Workbooks that are not course related may be purchased by students. Not course related means the workbook is not needed by the teacher to teach the curriculum of a specific course and is not needed by students to demonstrate mastery in a specific course. Teachers may not require students to purchase workbooks that are not course related. (An example of workbook that is not course related, is a test preparation workbook that is not needed by teachers to instruct or by students to learn course material, but which students might wish to have in order to prepare for an external examination, such as an Advanced Placement or SAT test.)

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Noncourse-Related Fees

4. If a student is paying an outside entity, can schools still collect the money?

Response: Yes. Schools may collect funds paid to an outside entity such as Cisco and the College Board, but the funds must be placed in a specific subaccount designated for a particular entity/company. The check may be made to the outside entity.

5. Can an activity fee be charged for incentives or school activities?

Response: Yes. Each principal may determine, in collaboration with the school and parent leadership committees, if noncourse-related fees for items such as incentives and school activities will be charged to students. The principal will communicate information about such fees and their purpose to all parents.

Calculators

6. Can schools rent graphing calculators, rather than ask students for a deposit?

Response: No. Schools may loan but not rent graphing calculators to students who cannot purchase their own graphing calculators.

Schools may collect a refundable deposit up to 50 percent of the calculator’s cost for a loaned graphing calculator. The deposit will be returned to the student if the calculator is returned in proper working condition. If the student loses or damages the loaned calculator, the student will be assigned a financial obligation for the remaining amount.

As an alternative, schools may loan the calculator without collecting a deposit and assess an obligation for the cost of the calculator if the calculator is lost or damaged.

Graphing calculators are considered necessary for the student to demonstrate mastery of the mathematics curriculum, beginning with Algebra 1. Students should be encouraged to buy their own graphing calculators to use during Algebra 1 and subsequent mathematics courses.

7. If a calculator is stolen, will the fee be refunded to the student?

Response: No. A refund of a student’s deposit is dependent upon the return of an undamaged calculator. If the calculator is lost or stolen, the student is responsible for the full replacement cost, less any amount already collected in a deposit.

8. Who is responsible for replacing batteries for calculators on loan?

Response: The calculator should be in working order when originally loaned. The student borrowing the calculator may be asked to provide batteries needed throughout the year.

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Music

9. Are supplies needed to keep musical instruments in working order provided free of charge to all students in an instrumental music class?

Response: No.  Students are responsible for obtaining supplies needed to maintain an instrument they have borrowed from a school or rented or purchased from a store.

If students borrow a school’s instrument, the school should provide the instrument in working order.  

10. What is a “reasonable selection” of musical instruments that schools must have on hand?

Response: A reasonable selection is a limited supply of the different instruments used at that level, following national guidelines for instrumental music instruction. Students are encouraged to rent or purchase from a music store to ensure they will have the instrument they prefer.

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Materials of Instruction

11. Can students be required to provide flash drives or CDR-Ws for storing their own presentations, projects, etc.?

Response: No. If a student uses a flash drive or a CDR-W to store his/her own materials and to transport material from school to home and back, the storage item may be considered an individual organizational tool or personal property which may be recommended but not required for the student to provide. If the teacher uses the flash drive or CDR-W to store student work during class for students to use during class the next day, then the storage item is considered a material of instruction and must be provided to students free of charge.

12. Do Post-Its, scissors, rulers, and index cards all need to be provided by the school?

Response: Not always. These items are considered to be commonly found at home. If they are to be used for homework, schools are not required to provide them to students.  If a student is unable to obtain any of these items, arrangements should be made between the teacher and student. 

However, if items are to be used solely for an in-class instructional activity, such as modeling how to use an index card as an organizational tool for conducting research, the school must provide these items as they are considered materials of instruction for that lesson.

13. Can schools charge for agenda books or planners?

Response: Yes. Schools can charge for agenda books, if the agenda book is not part of a student’s grade, is not used as a hall pass, and is not required. For example, if all Grade 9 students are encouraged to obtain agenda books as an organizational tool, but are not required to obtain the agenda book, a fee may be charged. In this instance, students may use an alternative to record assignments. If the agenda book or planner is required, schools must provide it free of charge to students.

14. Can a school request that students provide their own locks for physical education?

Response: Yes. This decision is a local school decision. Generally, physical education locker room locks are provided by schools for security reasons. However, schools may require students to provide their own locks. If schools assign locks, they may assess a financial obligation if a lock is lost or damaged.

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Waivers

15. How will schools know that the student is eligible for a waiver?

Response: No verification of hardship is required. However, schools must keep a record of waivers provided. Once a parent, student, or staff member requests a waiver for a student, the request is not questioned.

Field Trips

16. Are field trips governed by the course-related fees guidelines?

Response: No. Board of Education Policy IPD, Travel Study Programs, Field Trips and Student Organization Trips, and Montgomery County Public Schools Regulation IPD-RA, Travel Study Programs, Field Trips and Student Organization Trips, govern field trips.

Students may be charged fees for transportation and other costs related to a field trip, if participation is voluntary and an appropriate alternative is provided for students who choose not to participate. The amount charged should be the expense (bus, admission, etc.) divided by the number of students expected to attend. The final student cost may be rounded to the nearest dollar for ease of collection. No overcharge may be assessed to paying students to offset the costs absorbed by the school for students who are unable to pay.

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Obligations

17. If a student loses a required textbook, can the student be charged an obligation?

Response: Yes. When a student has lost, destroyed, or damaged property that the school has assigned to the student, a financial obligation will be assigned.

18. Next year’s seniors will have accrued financial obligations under the current course-related fees guidelines. Can schools hold these students responsible for accrued obligations even though the obligations were accrued under guidelines that are no longer applicable?

Response: Yes. Those financial obligations that were accrued under the guidelines in place prior to the 2009–2010 school year and not satisfied prior to July 1, 2009, can be carried into the following year. These financial obligations were accrued under the governing course-related fees guidelines at the time and are not automatically dismissed solely because Montgomery County Public Schools has modified and initiated new course-related fees guidelines.

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Communication 

19. How are schools communicating with parents?

Response: Schools will send letters communicating changes to the existing practices regarding course fees and supplies. Translations will be provided.

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