The fees will begin in the 2012-13 school year
By Elise Franco
Parents and students in Poland will have to open their wallets a bit wider now that pay-to-participate fees are in place.
The board approved pay to participate for all middle school and high school athletics, as well as a transportation fee for students in marching band, during its board meeting Monday.
The fees are $200 per high-school sport, $100 per middle-school sport and a $75 per-participant fee for band, all to begin in the 2012-13 school year.
Board member James Lavorini said he realizes and understands that many staff, students and parents are upset with the board’s decision.
He said the pay-to-participate change is only one of many the board will make in coming months.
“Everybody is going to have to give. We’re in this together,” he said.
“We don’t have some of the answers yet. ... If we take it one step at a time, in the end we’re going to get there.”
Board member Robert Shovlin voted against all the fees.
Board member Elinor Zedaker voted against fees for marching band because of confusion over whether the fee should be mandatory for all participants or an optional fee that would keep those students from attending out-of-town football games if they opt out of paying.
Dr. Larry Dinopolous, board president, said at this time the fee will be mandatory for all marching-band students.
The fees don’t include a cap per student or family and does not exempt students who are receiving free and reduced-cost lunches.
The sports fees will be used to subsidize the athletic budget, and the band fee will cover about half the cost of the band’s transportation, school board members said.
Tracey O’Kane of Poland said the new fees will affect two of her three children in 2012-13 and all three in 2013-14.
“The reason we chose Poland [to live] was because of the well-rounded education, and being involved in band or sports or extracurricular gives them that,” she said. “My biggest concern is the $200 fee per sport for high school students.”
O’Kane said next year she’ll pay upward of $1,200 for fall sports and band for her two high-school children. When her youngest enters middle school the year after that, the cost will rise to about $1,500, assuming the board doesn’t raise the fees.
“Please consider some kind of family cap on these costs,” she said. “This is really going to put a strap on us.
“The school is what makes the community strong, which is why I support levies, but with this, I can’t support another levy.”
The board has until July to decide if it plans to place a levy on the November ballot.
Paul Sherman of Poland said he doesn’t oppose the fees, but he would like to see them distributed to every extracurricular activity.
“Look at everything, and don’t isolate anything,” he said. “You need to reconsider a family cap and break for lower-income families. I’d hate to see an individual miss out because of financial circumstances.”
Dinopolous said the board will review a district evaluation at the May meeting that will look at classroom restructuring, possible open enrollment and the implementation of fees for other extracurricular activities.