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Published: Friday, 3/18/2005

Lake Local school board adopts pay-to-play plan

Students in Lake Local schools will have to pay to participate in extracurricular activities next year, if the district doesn't eliminate the activities.

If the 8.75-mill levy on the May 3 ballot fails, the board would consider cutting all extracurriculars except those required by law. It also may cut the food service program and some custodial shifts and close all buildings at 4 p.m. each day.

If the levy passes, the district would bring back student transportation "in some form" but would impose a pay-to-participate fee, leave several positions unfilled or staffed by volunteers, and keep some expenses frozen.

The board approved the activity fees and list of proposed cuts by 4-1 votes last night.

Board member Jeffrey Griffith said he voted against the fees because he feels that extracurricular activities are an important part of public education, and the fees would create a burden on some families.

Board member Kurt Johnson voted against the list of proposed cuts, which the board plans to use as a guideline after the May levy vote. He said the total savings from the cuts isn't large enough to justify the effect on the students.

The pay-to-participate fees would be capped at $600 per family and would range from $10 to $120. Mandatory drug-testing fees would be included. Fees for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches would be waived or reduced.

The board voted after hearing comments and questions from many of the 80 residents who attended the meeting in the high school auditorium.

Residents peppered the board with questions about state funding and the history of the district's budget problem, and they offered suggestions from selling bricks to renegotiating contracts.

Some said they understood the need to charge fees for activities but quibbled with the specific numbers.

John Nuckols took Superintendent Paul Orshoski to task for saying that the cuts weren't only about the money, but also about getting attention. Mr. Nuckols said he would not vote for the levy in May, and the comment was a slap in the face of people like him who voted for the district's levies in the past, when the busing cuts were at the expense of children's safety.

"I hope that if any child in this community is killed, hurt, or abducted, you can live with it for the rest of your lives," he yelled at the board.

The board defended the superintendent's comment. Board President Margene Akenberger said the district needs community members involved.

The board announced the creation of a task force to study and make suggestions about the district's budget, although the board will have final say on any specific actions.

The task force will have representatives from the Lake Township trustees, Walbridge and Millbury councils, the teachers' union, the classified staff union, two school board members, the superintendent, the treasurer, and five community members.

In addition, the board hopes to attract some businessmen to the task force, which it plans to get together and operating in the next six to eight weeks.



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