August 26, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 3 FLOW Area Case ends; district to pay $1.8 million to BC Academies by Frank J. McMahon The legal dispute between the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District and the Bergen County Vocational and Technical School District (BC Academies) that has been ongoing since 1997 has been settled. The RIH board has not been paying tuition and transportation costs for its district’s students who attend the BC Academies since 2003, but those students have been permitted to attend the academies and the technical school district has absorbed the cost pending the resolution of the legal dispute. Under the settlement agreement, the RIH school district agreed to pay or reimburse the BC Academies $1,804,591, which represents all the outstanding tuition and transportation costs that have been incurred and/or paid by the BC Academies since September 2003 when the RIH school district began to withhold payments. The RIH school district also agreed, beginning in the 2009-10 school year, to pay all tuition charges for RIH students who are accepted for enrollment in the BC Academies as required by law and will arrange, and pay for, the transportation of those students. The BC Academies agreed to provide the RIH school district with a total credit, or offset, of $450,000 to be applied against future tuition costs for RIH students. That amount will be paid over the next five years and, if the tuition cost over that time is less than the $450,000, the BC Academies will pay the difference to the RIH district by the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year. The dispute between the RIH district and the BC Academies had been ongoing in court since the regional school board decided to stop paying the costs to send its students to the BC Academies in 1998 for incoming 1999 freshmen attending the BC Academies. In June 2000, Administrative Law Judge Ken R. Springer ordered Ramapo Indian Hills to pay all past, present, and future tuition and related costs for all its resident students attending the BC Academies. In September 2001 the regional board agreed to do so. However, in April 2003, the regional board again decided to stop paying the tuition and transportation costs for BC Academies students, effective with the 2003-04 freshmen. The April 2003 action was taken on the basis that the RIH district’s University Programs in science, medicine, and research, and engineering and design, were equal to any other programs that might be available outside the district, and because the state had issued two classification of instructional programs (CIP) codes for those two University Programs. The BC Academies challenged that decision and petitioned the commissioner of education to require the RIH district to pay for the students it was sending to the BC Academies. The matter was then referred to the Office of Administrative Law. In August 2004, Judge McGill found that the regional school district should pay the BC Academies the tuition and transportation costs. That decision was adopted by the state’s commissioner of education, whose action was affirmed by the New Jersey State Board of Education. However, the Ramapo Indian Hills attorneys brought the matter to the Appellate Division of Superior Court. That led to the remand to the commissioner of education and ultimately to Judge McGill. The issue has been before Judge McGill since March 2006 for fact finding and a determination on the status of the RIH University Programs. The University Programs were created in 1998. According to the school district, they provide selected high school students with a four-year experience in specialized programs while providing them with full participation in their school’s academic, athletic, and extracurricular life. The school district argued that its University Programs mirror those at the BC Academies and, therefore, the school district should not have to pay to send its students to the academies. William Soukas, the attorney for the BC Academies, disagreed. He claimed the University Programs are not a vocational school within the meaning and intent of the school law statutes and regulations and, therefore, they are not entitled to withhold tuition from the BC Academies. 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