The issue is one quite a few parents face — they don’t technically live in Warrick County, but they want their child to attend a Warrick County school. The Warrick County School Corp.’s definitive answer to these situations is for parents to apply for the non-resident transfer program and pay $600 to $1,200 a year for their child to attend that specific Warrick County public school — no exceptions.
Elberfeld mom Katye Clutter, is facing this exact issue, but is asking the school board to make an exception to waive the fees for her 6-year-old son, Westyn, who has Spina Bifida, a birth defect that occurs in the first month of pregnancy in which the spinal column doesn’t close completely, and who she would like to attend Elberfeld Elementary School this fall. The main problem is that although their driveway is in between the Gibson and Warrick county lines and even though the Clutters have a Warrick address, they pay property taxes and technically live in Gibson County.
Katye Clutter, who is the pioneer behind the organization, Winning the Fight 4 SB, which has raised over $60,000 to install an accessible playground in the Elberfeld community, said she received an apologetic email from a school board member on Monday, May 6 about letting her son attend Elberfeld in the fall without paying tuition.
“[They stated] that this was an actual state requirement of geographical lines that the board can not adjust,” she said. “Any changes would have to take place at a state level.”
Just two days later, Katye Clutter called the Indiana State Board of Education to discuss the boundary issues further.
“She agreed that it would make sense for my children to attend a school that is less than one mile from our home,” Katye Clutter said. “She then transferred my phone call to another department. My call was transferred two to three times. The final time my call was transferred I was no longer speaking to anyone at the state office. I was speaking to the Warrick County School Corporation.”
Where the answer was still no.
If the Clutters choose to forgo the transfer option, her son and his brothers, Jentry 2, and Korbyn, 1, will have to attend Haubstadt Community School, which is a 20 minute drive from their house in Elberfeld.
“While Haubstadt is a great school, Elberfeld is his hometown and it would’ve been much more
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convenient having him attend a school a minute down the road instead of 20 minutes,” Katye Clutter said. “Especially in the event that his mom needs to come give him medical attention.”
Katye Clutter said common conditions and disorders associated with Spina Bifida include Neurogenic bowel and bladder, hydrocephalus, chiari II malformation, tethered spinal cord, paralysis, latex allergies, and sometimes, learning disabilities.
“Elberfeld is not only Westyn’s hometown, but also the hometown of his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins,” she said. “In the event that my son would need medical attention, I would feel confident in knowing that he would be in the best care possible.”
Warrick County School Superintendent Brad Schneider said although the Clutter case is unfortunate, they still would not make an exception.
“I hate it for them, but we deal with issues like this probably half a dozen times a year [and] we are not treating this individual any different than another,” he said. “And in order to attend a Warrick County School, you must reside in Warrick County.”
Schneider said they have plenty of parents who live just across the border in Vanderburgh County who want their kids to attend WCSC instead of EVSC.
“Some of them take us up on the non-resident application process,” he said. “Everyone has the opportunity to do that and if we have room in schools at that grade level, we can accept them.”
But regardless, they can’t make any exceptions about not paying the fee for out-of-county students.
“Where do we start making exceptions?” Schneider said. “Do we go to the first house over the line or the first block? Then the people on the second block will say, ‘You made an exception.’ Then we have to go a mile outside of the county.”
Katye Clutter said she and her family could have been deceitful and lied to the school corp. about their address like other parents in the past who wanted their kids to attend Warrick Schools, but that they couldn’t in good conscience do that.
“We could’ve done that as our family and friends are in Elberfeld, but we’re just trying to be honest and we didn’t anticipate it being this big of a deal,” she said. “We now have found out that this is a big deal to us and to the several other people who have also had to pay tuition.”
Katye Clutter said the reasoning behind the school corp’s decision is not lost on her, but she still wishes they would make an exception to the rule.
“We understand the need to uniformly enforce rules, but when there is so much gray area in this case, we would think that they could be a tiny bit flexible,” she said. “You can literally see the school from Westyn’s driveway.”
Schneider said he can’t make an exception to Katye Clutter’s request because she is asking for preferential treatment — something even the teachers who live outside of Warrick County but teach in Warrick schools and want their children to attend, do not get.
“Employees and teachers who live outside Warrick County who bring their child, do so on the non-resident application,” he said. “This individual is asking us to make an exception to the rule. But once you do one, where does it end?”
Katye Clutter said she has received a great deal of support from the community and is hoping to bring the issue up again at the next school board meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20 in the Warrick County School Central Services Building in Boonville.
“We would like further explanation on the reason that WCSC has decided to charge out-of-county tuition and what this tuition goes towards,” Katye Clutter said. “The other surrounding counties do not do this. It seems absurd that Warrick County would want to discourage attendance at their schools, especially the ones that have plenty of room. These are public schools, tuition should not be charged.”
Schneider reiterated that this situation is not something new and they can’t let Westyn Clutter have special treatment.
“We have to operate within the rules and guidelines and policies that we’ve established,” he said. “If we don’t, then we are not doing our jobs taking care of our responsibilities.”