Q: What is an attendance center?
A: An attendance center is a location where students regularly attend school at a location other than the regular school building. The attendance center is effectively part of a specified school of the district. Attendance centers are not specifically defined in law, since they are a part of a school, which is defined.
Attendance centers have been established for Montanan school districts on several Hutterite Colonies.
As an alternative, some school districts set up Hutterite Colony programs as separate schools of the district. As a separate school, all accreditation, funding, etc., is handled just like other schools of the district. If it is a separate school, the program is not an attendance center.
Q: How does an attendance center affect accreditation?
A: Because it is a public school that is also part of a school district, an attendance center falls under the accreditation requirements of the school it is part of. The board of trustees of a district is responsible for ensuring the school, including its attendance center, and meets accreditation standards. The method of providing the necessary requirements is left largely up to the school district and school.
Q: What considerations must a Hutterite Colony make if the colony school is run as an attendance center of a public school?
A: The teacher is an employee of the district, the school district's board of trustees controls the curriculum policies, the center cannot provide religious education, policies concerning attendance are set by the school board, and the attendance center must allow all children from the area, even outside the Hutterite Colony to attend, since it is a public school program.
Q: Can a school district establish an attendance center at a Hutterite Colony in an adjacent district without the district's permission? For example, could a school such as Valier School District set up an attendance center at a colony within Dupuyer School District territory without Dupuyer's permission?
A: No. OPI advises the resident and nonresident districts to sign an interlocal agreement if an attendance center is to be established in a nonresident district. Montana law authorizes school district trustees to determine where to provide educational programs for their resident students within the boundaries of their own district. However, Montana law does not indicate intent to authorize districts to provide programs for nonresident students inside another district's boundaries without permission of that district. OPI does encourage cooperation between districts.
Q: How would establishment of an attendance center at a school district affect the taxable valuation (i.e., taxing capacity) of the district?
A: Attendance centers do not affect taxable valuation in any way. The colony property is taxed by the school district where the colony is located.
Q: Can a colony give the school district a "grant" when it becomes an attendance center?
A: School districts are allowed to accept gifts and donations under Section 20-6-601 and 604, MCA. However, a school district must not require the colony to pay for education. Generally speaking, attendance centers have been created on the basis of mutual benefit to the district and colony. Contributions of additional resources by the colony may enable a school district to afford to run an attendance center. The practice of a colony voluntarily contributing support such as classroom space, utilities and supplies to an attendance center is currently accepted.
Q: How are attendance centers established?
A: Usually, a colony and school district write a contractual agreement. A district will process a request for additional ANB (child count for funding) to be able to build the budget for the ensuing year, and include the students of the new center.
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