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School Board passes motion waiving out-of-county student tuition

The Stanly County School Board passed a motion during a recent meeting to create a tuition waiver for out-of-county students for the upcoming school year.

The waiver would bring more students to the schools. Superintendent Dr. Jeff James said at one point the school system had a capacity of around 10,000 students, but now has around 8,400 students. He said if the schools were filled to capacity, the idea of a transfer waiver would not have been brought up.

James said the enrollment drop from 10,000 to 8400 over the last decade in current funding would equate to a 12 million dollar loss and 70 less teaching positions.

James said the tuition waiver would also be applied to students who already transferred into the school system from other counties.

The waiver will be revisited each year to see how it is working and to make sure it is still an effective practice.

Though out-of-county student tuition, which costs around $1,347, would be waived, James estimates the school system will gain more than 50 students thanks to the tuition waiver. With each student in the county costing around $8,500 to educate, the additional increase could potentially bring in around $425,000, which would go to help the whole county.

“Economically, it helps us fill up some empty seats throughout our schools,” James said.

Much of the growth in the county is coming from the western region, particularly Locust. James mentioned relatively new housing developments built partly in Locust and partly in Cabarrus County have forced many students to travel a further distance to go to Cabarrus County Schools.

James has talked to superintendents in Cabarrus, Anson and Montgomery counties about the idea of the tuition waiver.

“Cabarrus County has so much growth they would welcome anything we would do to take some of their students because they can’t build schools fast enough,” James said.

It’s not uncommon for students to transfer to surrounding school districts and James said superintendents have a “gentleman’s agreement” to accept the changes. He expects a few Stanly students will likely transfer to Montgomery County Schools when it opens Montgomery Central High School in the summer.

Students would apply for a transfer request and the school system would look at the schools that have the capacity to accept them.

Board member Glenda Gibson was concerned that coaches would utilize the system to recruit students to come to Stanly to play sports.

“Is that what we want for our students, to know that others in surrounding counties can come here for free on our sports teams and take spots away from our Stanly County students?” she said.

James said each year the school system investigates cases of students being recruited to the county for sports. The transfer committee, which looks into each transfer request, has the power to deny requests it thinks are based solely on sports, James said. Even if the request gets appealed, the school board would have the power to decide the final outcome.

“There’s stopgap measures in place to prevent recruiting from happening,” James said.

Gibson was the only board member that voted against the motion.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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