- BC Games
Some Coquitlam district parents owed refunds for summer school fees
Hundreds of Tri-City families may be eligible for refunds on summer school fees they paid several years ago after a class action suit involving a Coquitlam family was settled last week.
It's not known how many people will ask for a refund and what the final cost will be but, in 2007, according to Tri-City News' files, the district said it paid out $500,000 in refunds after school fees were made illegal.
According to a school district memo, the refund covers summer school fees paid in 2005 and 2006 as well as any paid after July 1, 2004, and the province has agreed to fund a portion of the settlement and administrative costs to a certain threshold, with affected school districts paying the balance.
"As the agreement is a legal document, we are not in a position at this time to share this privileged communication," the memo states.
But SD43's assistant secretary treasurer, Chris Nicolls, said the amount of money involved is not expected to be significant or cause the district financial hardship.
"We just don't see it being a significant item that's going to have the impact that is going to cause us to have to take a deep breath and look at alternatives," Nicolls said.
The issue arrises after a Coquitlam mom, Debra Helem, started a class action suit mirroring one by Sarah Riazi against the Vancouver School Board. Both suits argued that if the fees were illegal in 2007, they were also illegal in preceding years (subject to the statute of limitations).
CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT
Madam Justice Jane Dardi of the B.C. Supreme Court certified the Helem lawsuit as a class action on Friday and approved an agreement to settle both of the claims.
Helem wasn't available for comment before The Tri-City News' deadline and the law firm Poyner Baxter LLP declined to comment.
Under the settlement, parents who paid tuition for summer school remedial and graduation completion courses will be mailed a claim form allowing them to choose either a 70% refund or a 100% credit toward tuition in other courses. A 25% legal fee will be deducted and paid to Poyner Baxter, which represented the plaintiffs.
Parents have until the middle of February to make their claims and the school district is in the process of making a list of people who would have paid summer school fees and their last known address to contact them.
In 2007, 3,000 students received refunds of between $25 and $600, depending on what courses they took and how many because of a 2006 court ruling prohibiting school fees.
Ministry spokesperson Scott Sutherland couldn't confirm how much the province will pay for the refunds but said some $14.6 million will be paid to school districts this year for about 48,000 school-aged students to take summer school or summer learning courses.