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VOL. 129 | NO. 44 | Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Germantown Schools Tuition Debate Lingers

By Bill Dries

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UPDATE: In a special meeting Friday, March 7, the Germantown Municipal Schools board voted 3-0 to rescind its tuition requirement for open enrollment of students living outside Germantown.

The Germantown school board has approved a $200 annual fee for students attending their school system who live outside Germantown.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

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Parents of students in the Germantown Municipal Schools who don’t live within Germantown’s borders will pay $200 per child per year or a family fee of $500 per year under terms of the suburban school system’s open enrollment policy.

The 3-2 Germantown school board vote Monday, March 3, came with lots of debate and a recommendation against such a fee or tuition by Germantown Schools superintendent Jason Manuel.

The debate over the fee will likely continue as the suburban school systems each continue to get an idea of how many students they will have for the school year that begins in August.

At the outset of the move to form suburban school systems, several of the six suburban towns and cities included some debate about whether the school systems should be open to students not living within their borders. The debate was short-lived at the time as much of the larger discussion was about how to react to the then coming merger of Shelby County Schools with Memphis City Schools.

All six of the suburban school systems are about to get or have already received revised enrollment estimates from Southern Educational Strategies LLC, the consulting firm that provided the original estimates on enrollment and financing the cost of operating the school systems.

All of those original enrollment estimates are expected to be lower because students who live in the unincorporated county who attended schools in the six cities and towns will remain part of Shelby County Schools after the demerger.

All seven public school systems in Shelby County will have open enrollment policies of some kind for the debut of the demerger with the 2014-2015 school year.

All of the plans are limited by available space for those outside a school attendance zone and/or the borders of a school system.

But the demerger means parents will have more choices as well as charter and private schools available.

Shelby County Schools officials have been aggressively promoting new optional programs at the three Germantown schools that remain part of its system next school year as well as plans for a new Woodstock High School in unincorporated North Shelby County.

The effort includes pitching the “three Gs” – as the Germantown schools are known – to parents who live within Germantown. It also includes an aggressive promotion of Bolton High School in unincorporated Shelby County to parents in Bartlett and the Bartlett annexation reserve area.

Three of the eight schools within the borders of Germantown – Germantown Elementary, Middle and High Schools – also remain in the Shelby County Schools system next academic year under terms of a settlement negotiated with Germantown leaders last year that also generated much debate.

The Germantown Schools system remains unique from the other five suburban systems for several reasons.

Even before the schools merger that began with the current academic year a large number of students living in Collierville attended and continue to attend Houston High School.

Shelby County Schools leaders pushed for and got the agreement to keep Germantown high and middle, specifically, because the majority of students in those two schools do not live in Germantown.

Germantown leaders hope to draw a larger share of students to their school system who live within Germantown than the set of schools have attracted even under the legacy Shelby County Schools system that covered all of the county outside Memphis.

With next year’s move to the suburban school systems, Houston becomes the only high school in the Germantown Municipal Schools district with Germantown High remaining in Shelby County Schools.

The approval of the fee or tuition means Collierville students wanting to remain at Houston High School would pay to stay at the high school. Collierville parents were among those at Monday’s school board meeting urging the board to vote down the fee. Collierville Schools superintendent John Aitken has said he is seeking an agreement with Germantown Schools leaders as the Collierville system expects growth.

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