An Irvine elementary school charges for history program, then tells parents they don’t have to pay – Orange County Register

IRVINE Brywood Elementary fifth-graders will learn American history through an interactive program this Friday —  and school officials billed parents for it even though state law says public schools can’t charge for participation in an educational activity.

Brywood sent parents fliers asking for $11 per child to pay for their participation in Walk through the American Revolution.

School officials called it a field trip, but students will go no farther than the campus multi-purpose room.

“As this is the equivalent of a field trip, we will need to be collecting fees for this event,” a flier to the parents reads. “Each child will need to bring in a check for $11.00 to be made out to Brywood School no later than April 28th.”

Flier sent to Brywood Elementary fifth-graders

District officials called the flier’s wording an oversight.

After the Register contacted the district, the school planned to e-mail the families on Tuesday, May 9, to clarify that the $11 is a contribution and voluntary. “No student will be denied the ability to participate due to financial reasons,”  Irvine Unified spokeswoman Annie Brown said.

Some teachers already had written on the fliers that it’s a voluntary donation, she said.

“The district works with our school sites to clarify that parent donations for educational activities are voluntary, and that students will not be denied participation if their families are unable to or choose not to contribute,” Brown said in an e-mail to the Register.

As of Tuesday morning, 53 of the 100 fifth-grade families at Brywood had sent in the $11, Brown said.

Presenters recreate history through a quick-paced, 2 1/2-hour program by Tustin-based California Weekly Explorer that engages students with questions, maps and games. Students will play historical figures and recreate battle scenes.

“It feels like a field trip but we come to your school,” said Barry Hovis, California Weekly Explorer’s operations manager. “The idea is they don’t have to leave the school, sign insurance forms and get on a bus. It’s part of a fun phrase.”

Last month, the California Department of Education told Irvine Unified that  Northwood Elementary can’t charge six-graders’ parents for class parties, sweatshirts and an outdoor science camp. The school had sent families what looked like billing statements and one parent complained.

To comply, Northwood’s Principal Janelle Kellar mailed letters to those families, clarifying that the school sent out “requests for donations” and the fees are not mandatory. Northwood parents were asked to respond by this Friday, May 12, that they either want a refund or are “comfortable with my donations and do not want a refund.”

As of Tuesday, 13 of the 116 Northwood families had requested refunds, Brown said.

Under state law, schools can ask for money for field trips and excursions “so long as no pupil is prevented from making the field trip or excursion because of lack of…

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