At the suggestion of Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., the Board of Education embraced the concept Monday night of increasing student population by adopting a tuition policy.
District officials experienced additional students in the school as families relocated to the Island to escape urban areas during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, there was no tuition involved because families moved to the Island, making their children eligible to attend the public school.
But as vaccines led to sharply curbing the incidence of serious illness and death, many parents who had been able to work remotely returned to offices, necessitating families moving back to where their jobs were based.
The experience of having new students in the district was positive for existing students and their families, Mr. Doelger said. Because the current student population hovers around 200, the experience of having additional students in the district demonstrated that more students could be absorbed without adding to expenses or causing class sizes to increase markedly, the superintendent said.
“It was just really wonderful and would be even better if we got paid for it,” Mr. Doelger said.
He recommended the Board of Education consider a reasonable tuition that wouldn’t limit the average off-Island family from enrolling children in the district, while providing another source of income. He noted the district used to charge $1,500 to teachers who lived outside the district, but wanted to enroll their children in the Shelter Island School.
Board member Rob Strauss asked whether the district could cap the number of tuition-paying students it could enroll. Mr. Doelger said it would be likely that each application from a family seeking to place outside students in the district could be considered individually. But it seems unlikely there would be any need for a formal cap.
The superintendent suggested tuition levels of $3,000 for an elementary school student and $5,000 for a secondary school student. It’s likely the Board of Education will move rapidly since parents will want to make decisions about where their children go to school as early as possible.
Mr. Doelger said he and Building and Grounds Director Mike Dunning have been discussing the importance of beefing up school security. There are companies with proposals that could cost half a million dollars, Mr. Doelger said. But the two men believe the way to go is to take a few critical steps that Mr. Dunning outlined.
The first need is what Mr. Dunning called “the hardening” of the exterior of the building. Currently, staff have a card system to enter the building but it needs to be upgraded, he said.
Outsiders must be buzzed in by an attendant at the front desk. But to provide safety, there could be some kind of enclosure for the person at the desk, with the ability to communicate with someone seeking to enter, to determine whether or not to provide access.
The building also has some doors that date from the 1950s and should be replaced and a new locking mechanism installed so the entire building could be locked with the press of a single button, instead of staff members having to lock various doors.
Mr. Doelger is exploring the purchase of a van he said could save money for the district for transporting teams to athletic events or students to local field trips. This spring, the district was able to borrow the Senior Services van on a brief trial run so staff members who live off-Island could walk on North Ferry boats and meet the van on Shelter Island for transport to and from the school.
At the annual re-organizational meeting, which preceded the regular monthly meeting, Margaret Colligan was re-elected Board of Education president and Katherine Rossi-Snook vice president.
Ms. Colligan told her colleagues the district has received a certificate from the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association that reads: “In recognition of extraordinary dedication to effective and responsive governance during unprecedented times.” At the bottom of the certificate is a quote from the late singer Harry Chapin: “We all have the potential to move the world and the world is ready to be moved.”