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Saturday, July 20 News

Board looks at changes to Walter Fitzgerald tuition

FAIRFIELD — The school district is looking at changing the way it would charge for out of district students at Walter Fitzgerald High School, the town’s alternative high school.

The discussion comes as another school district has indicated interest in sending a student to Walter Fitzgerald.

“A lot of districts don’t have alternative programs,” Robert Mancusi, special education executive director, said. “The students we would accept are students who can be appropriately placed in public school, whose level of need does not exceed that which can be met in a public school, that doesn’t require outplacement.”

Walter Fitzgerald has just been used as an in-district program, but in 2016 the school board adopted a policy change allowing students from other school districts. The tuition, paid by that school district, was set at $57,000, based on the tuition charged by Cooperative Educational Services in Trumbull.

Mancusi said they are looking at revising that to $35,000 as the base tuition, which is close to twice Fairfield’s per-pupil expenditure (PPE). “Additional services would be billed per diem, similar to how we bill our Open Choice students,” he said.

“Did you do any data analysis of what the cost has been for students at the facility,” board member Nick Aysseh said. “I don’t want to just go for a number that’s twice the PPE.”

Mancusi said the number was one they thought was fair, based on their experience sending Fairfield students to other districts. Though an actual anaysis of the cost to educate an out of district student has not been done, Mancusi said he was open to completing one.

“I can do that,” he said.

Aysseh said the proposal is a large decrease and he would like assurances that the cost would not go over the $35,000 being charged.

“That’s a base tuition,” Mancusi said and doesn’t include additional costs of programs deemed needed by a student. Those additional costs would be billed as well.

Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones said it is important to understand the base cost but says there “really is not a great formula.”

“We can’t go and parse out what a student costs just they’re at Walter Fitzgerald,” she said.

“At this campus, we have a small number of students,” Aysseh said. “We’re talking about potential students from out of town and what we’re going to charge. If everyone is $50,000, why $35,000.”

Jones said what is offered at Walter Fitzgerald is a different type of program.

‘I would like to bring students in and charge tuition,” Aysseh said. “It’s a potential revenue source.”

Board member Jeffrey Peterson asked if there was a reason they are not considering “charging what the market will bear.”

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“From our experience, we think $35,000 is a fair base tuition,” Mancusi said.

Chairman Phil Dwyer pointed out that for the last two years, the tuition was $57,000 “and nobody took us up on it.”

Mancusi told the board he would do further analysis on students costs at Walter Fitzgerald.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-842-2585