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Published: Tuesday, 5/26/2009

AW pay-to-participate plan possible

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A year ago, the Anthony Wayne school board considered, then rejected, a proposal to have students pay to participate in sports and other activities.

Two levy defeats later, the idea is again before the board.

"In the past I think we were pretty content trying to avoid doing it," said board President Doug Zimmerman. "But I think we've come to the conclusion through conversation ... and just through the climate, the economic times we have that maybe we need to find a way to offset some of our general fund costs that go to these extracurricular activities through the people who do them."

Board members would like to hear from the community about the issue before it meets next at 1 p.m. June 29. Mr. Zimmerman said the board most likely would make a decision at that meeting so that the policy, if approved, could be implemented for the fall season.

Superintendent John Granger said a committee convened more than a year ago to look at pay-to-participate plans came up with three proposals:

•A plan to help offset the costs of extracuricular programs to the general fund that calls for a $65 per student fee per sport, band, and music and a $40 fee for clubs.

•A plan with family discounts that's intended to cover about half the costs to the general fund. For athletics, band and music, the first student in a family would pay $133, a second family member would pay $100, and a third would pay $70 with a family cap of $275 per season, $550 for the year.

For clubs, the first family member would pay $80, the second would pay $55, the third $30 with a family cap of $150 for the year.

•A plan to cover the entire cost of the programs to the general fund that calls for a $265 fee per student per sport, band, or music and $160 per student per club.

The policies, which exempt National Honor Society, would apply to students in grades 7-12. The committee also recommended setting up a scholarship assistance fund to help students who can't afford to pay the fees.

"All three are on the table," Mr. Granger said. "The board is going to take input for the next six weeks and make a decision June 29."

The superintendent said the board decided to resurrect the idea of pay-to-participate after reviewing the results of a focus group convened earlier this year.

"We had three different questions about pay-to-participate and in approximately 40 percent of the responses to all three questions, people either strongly agreed or agreed the school should have some form of pay-to-participate," Mr. Granger said. "That's not a majority, but it was mixed enough that the board should probably talk about that possibility."

Mr. Zimmerman said that as a parent with a sixth-grader involved in multiple sports, it's a difficult question.

"I struggle myself with whether I want to pay at a pulic school, whether I want to pay for him to do those things, but I also realize not everyone's doing what he's going to do," he said. "I guess if it costs some, I'm willing to pay because I think it has value."

Mr. Zimmerman said he would not favor the more expensive options in part because he does not want to discourage students from getting involved in extracurricular activities, which he believes correlates with better academic performance.

Still, he said, charging fees for sports and other activities would help the district's bottom line.

"We're trying to stay off the ballot because we don't think we stand much of a chance," Mr. Zimmerman said. "Maybe getting us this boost to the general fund will stretch it out a little more."



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