The world may be welcome here during the 2002 Winter Games, but Utah public schools are not obligated to educate budding athletes unless they live here with their parents or legal guardians.
In a recent memorandum to Utah's 40 school superintendents, school law attorneys Doug Bates and Carol Lear spelled out the state's rules on school enrollment, residency and guardianship."The Legislature has asked that we cooperate with the Olympics, but that does not extend to spending money appropriated to educate Utah students on educating students from other states and nations, even if they are trying to get ready for the Olympics," they wrote.
The memo suggests several school districts have been contacted about enrolling students from other states and countries.
Nebo School District spokeswoman Frances Larsen said a youth hockey team had inquired whether it could enroll students in the district.
The group was told the youths could attend Nebo schools if participants paid out-of-state tuition, which is $3,900 a year per student.
"They told us "we'll work with other districts that will not charge us out-of-state tuition,' " said Carl Nielson, Nebo District coordinator of student services.
The officials said the team specifically mentioned Alpine School District.
Alpine School District policy permits out-of-state students to attend their schools, so long as the students establish legal guardianships, said Russ Felt, director of pupil services.
About a dozen high school students who play in the developmental Western Hockey League attend Alpine schools. Students compete with other teams based in the West, among them teams based in Las Vegas and Flagstaff.
"I don't think this (league) particularly started as a result of the Olympics coming here," Felt said. "The inference I drew from the letter was it's something a lot broader (issue) than that."
"I can't imagine that kind of memo would be generated for 12-14 kids," Felt added.
Bates, coordinator of school law and legislation for the Utah State Office of Education, said his office had received other reports of youth sport groups attempting to place students in public schools while they train in winter sports.
Park City School District is particularly hard hit with requests, he said..
"We've been trying to deal with it on a district-by-district basis. As the reports kept coming up, we felt we needed to have some clarification on it," Bates said.
"I felt if these groups are starting to shop districts, I'd better send out a memo and clarify it."
Bates said he has heard reports of families renting apartments near training facilities, then opening the apartments to other youths who also are in training.
The parents then make a claim of residency but "it's just not true."
For some, it's just a means of avoiding out-of-state tuition bills.
"We're consistently denying these kinds of skier group homes," he said.
Interestingly, a private school in Park City, the Winter School, has designed its academic year to accommodate youth winter sports training. Students attend class April through November. Fifty-six students are enrolled in the school this year.
In the public-school setting, state law states student residency is determined by the residence of their parents or legal guardians.
Nonresidents must pay tuition equal at least to the actual cost of the program in which the student is enrolled. A student who requires a English as a Second Language program or special education services would therefore pay higher tuition. These students are not eligible for fee waivers.
The law also closes the door on establishing residency or guardianship through a power-of-attorney document, "regardless of the wording used in the document."
The law provides for "power of attorney" exceptions provided under local school board policy, however. Absent a district policy, guardianship can only be established through a court-ordered guardianship. "Exceptions apply only to countries which do not have court-ordered guardianships, and then only when special circumstances are present," according to the memo.
Even if the person trying to enroll in a public school offers to pay tuition, the district is under no obligation to accept the student.
Nielsen said believed the memo was issued to "head off problems before they start."
"We have enough problems with guardianship issues already. With the Olympics coming, we're just avoid some problems that could come with that," he said.