VIDEO: Back-to-school comes with cost

Parents hit up stores for school supplies

Back-to-school season can be stressful for some parents due to the pressures of buying school supplies and paying school fees.

“My granddaughter is going to Grade 6 this year and it cost me about $120 yesterday, just for her,” said Donna Ternes, who was shopping in Red Deer on Wednesday.

Kim McCreery, whose son, Shae, is starting kindergarten this fall, said although his school expenses are manageable, that may not be the case as he gets older.

“You do need quite a few things to get them by during the school year,” she said. “I can’t imagine how it will be when he gets a little older, because he will need less crafting materials and more working materials, so it’ll probably be more costly.”

Some school divisions, such as Red Deer Public Schools, are helping families by taking on a $300,000 deficit to reduce fees. The provincial government has provided about $780,000 to the board to reduce school fees for parents, but that did not eliminate all fees.

Under Bill 1, the provincial government planned to reimburse school fees that the boards were charging across Alberta; however, some boards, including Red Deer Public, had eliminated elementary school fees a long time ago, so the funding from the province did not come through.

“We didn’t get it because we weren’t charging it,” said Bev Manning, chair of the Red Deer Public board of trustees. She said the board has been diligent about reducing school fees.

In return, the school division wants one thing from the provincial government: a two-way consultation process and better communication.

“School fees should be eliminated wherever possible; however, how that’s done, we would like some input,” she said. Our board feels like we are told stuff and it would be better if it was the other way around.”

School fees at Red Deer Catholic schools will also reduced during the 2017-18 school year, since the board is expected to receive about $630,000 from the government. Kindergarten parents, who would’ve paid around $30 per child last year, can expect to pay nothing this year. Parents with children in Grades 1 to 6 will also pay nothing.

Red Deer Public parents can expect to pay for some “add-ons” such as field trips, optional purchases such as school agendas, yearbooks, music recorders, swim fees, locks and any extracurricular activities.

Red Deer Catholic parents can expect about the same. For example, if your child picks a sport, there will be some fees.

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