MEDINA — Pay-to-play athletic fees could be reduced or phased out in the district over the next few years, but school officials say eliminating them in one fell swoop is not possible.
The issue was discussed Monday at the school board’s monthly business meeting.
Superintendent Aaron Sable said the fees bring in about $500,000 for athletic programs each year.
“I do think it’s something we need to address,” he said. “I’m not going to get into statistics today about students that are involved in extracurriculars, athletics, and their achievement in school, but there’s definitely a relationship between participation and success.”
“I know since I’ve been with the district we’ve had board members who’ve expressed concerns about pay-to-participate fees as well as ensuring all students have an opportunity to participate,” he added.
Yearly costs per student are capped at $660 but no cap per household currently exists, meaning that families with multiple students playing multiple sports are often charged in excess of $1,000 each year.
Sable said a yearly household cap of $990 has been proposed and that he recommends implementing it before the start of the 2019-20 school year.
“Eliminating the fees all at once would be a huge financial burden on the district and athletic programming that we’re able to offer,” he said. “We want to look at ways that we can increase support to our families to ensure that all of our students have the chance to participate.”
Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are subject to lesser fees or even no fees in surrounding school districts, but those policies often limit the number of sports that students can participate in.
Sable said reduced federal and state aid coming into public school districts is at least partially responsible for necessitating pay-to-play measures.
“It’s definitely one of the big causes,” he said. “There’s a cost to operate schools and a difficulty in prioritizing where that money needs to go. In regards to what the state provides us, there’s so much reliance on local dollars and local support.
“I think we’re going to open the door for the conversation (to eliminate the fees) and see what the community wants. Over the next two to three years we’ll begin that conversation. We know there will be waived fees for students on free lunch but we’re not sure how it will work with reduced yet. We’re still looking into it all.”