Pay-to-play policy in Poland schools brings minimal downsizing to teams

By Ashley Luthern


Pay-to-participate fees haven’t caused a dramatic drop in participation in fall sports, with the exception of high-school cross country, which was anticipated, the athletic director says.

This is the first sports season that the district has charged $200 per high-school sport and $100 per middle-school sport.

So far, 241 high school athletes have paid and 30 additional athletes are listed on rosters and expected to pay, bringing the anticipated total to 271, compared with 311 fall athletes last year, Athletic Director Brian Banfield told the school board this week.

Of the 40 athlete difference between this fall and last, 19 are from cross country, he said. Last year, high-school cross country had 45 runners, compared with 26 this year.

In the middle school, 118 students have paid for fall sports and five more are listed on rosters and expected to pay, which means the middle school would have only one fewer student playing a fall sport than last year, he added.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said board member James Lavorini.

In some cases such as middle-school volleyball, Banfield said participation has increased and will require tryouts.

“If anyone is cut from a squad, the fee is refunded,” he said.

Band Director Nick Olesko also told the board that marching band numbers are holding steady with 163 compared with about 170 to 180 last year.

Board member Robert Shovlin noted that a large decrease already had occurred since the early 2000s when marching band had 300-some members.

Olesko said the decrease in participation over the last decade was anticipated when there were changes at the fifth-grade level when students are first able to join band.

“When the connector was built between the middle school and McKinley Elementary, the schedule had to change for lunch. ... The fifth-graders would have to miss recess to be in band,” Olesko said.

Olesko said fewer fifth-graders joined band because they didn’t want to give up recess, and now that those classes moved up to high school, fewer students are in marching band.

Shovlin asked Olesko if he thought the $75 per-participant fee for marching band had led some band students opting not to march.

“I don’t think the fee is the biggest issue now,” Olesko said. “... I think it will take a few years to find out what effect the fee has.”

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