SOUTH COVENTRY - The Owen J. Roberts School Board is getting stricter about students living outside district borders who attempt to attend its schools.
It adopted a new policy as the result of an ongoing dispute with a Downing-town girl who attended Owen J. Roberts High School for several months. The girl's father claimed she lived above his mulch business in South Cov-entry, making her eligible to attend the school.
The new policy severely limits circumstances under which out-of-district students may attend Owen J. Roberts schools. Add-itionally, OJR officials have vowed to verify addresses of newly enrolled students in a more timely manner.
Michael and Dawn Wozniak, who own a home in the Downingtown Area School District, had enrolled their 10th-grade daughter Brittany in Owen J. Roberts High School for the start of the 2005-06 school year. Wozniak, who owns Mulch Man on Pottstown Pike, contended that his business location and its associated taxes paid to the school district entitled him to send his daughter to the school.
It was only after a census enumerator for the OJR school district visited the address given by the family that officials realized they lived outside the school district. Another daughter in the Wozniak family attends school in Downingtown.
Despite a communication from the OJR school district last fall outlining a timeline for Brittany's withdrawal from the high school at the Thanksgiving break, she returned after Thanksgiving under a scenario that was accepted by OJR officials. The family had by then established a residence within the OJR school district, Superintendent Myra Forrest said.
According to district policy, any student is required to be a "permanent resident" of the school district. Forrest confirmed that the family had produced the legal papers required for enrollment; however, the family's living arrangement had an interesting twist.
"Actually, they've split the family in two," Forrest explained, creating a scenario in which one daughter lived with her father and attended school in the Owen J. Roberts School District and the other daughter lived with her mother and attended school in the Downing-town Area School District.
The OJR school board voted to bill the family for tuition during the period Brittany attended school as an out-of-district student. Tuition in the school district is set at $45.64 per day. At a meeting of the school board's Legislative and Policy Committee in December, board members authorized the business administrator to bill the family.
Contacted earlier this week, David Hemberger, director of pupil personnel, confirmed that the Wozniaks had been billed for the first quarter's tuition. "We asked them to remit their payment to the school district," he said.
"It was shortly after that they withdrew," he added, noting that Brittany did not return to Owen J. Roberts High School following the Christmas break. "My understanding is that they were going back to Downingtown."
Earlier this week, district Business Administra-tor Denny G. Bolton confirmed that the bill for $2,373.28 remains un-paid. Whether the school district will take further action to collect on the outstanding bill is "subject to the direction of the board," Bolton said.
"They'll have to make a determination as to the next course of action," he said. Bolton indicated the board might choose to drop the matter or possibly seek legal recourse.